I think that In the House in the Dark of the Woods is one of those books that people will either rate very lowly (and possibly shelve as DNF), because they find it too weird and nonsensical; or rate very highly, and write long reviews praising the genius of the author in crafting it.
God, did I want to love this book. I mean, just look at that cover! I’m somewhere in the middle, though, at two and a half stars. I did actually finish the book at least, though this is partly due to the fact that it’s so short. But throughout, and afterward, I kept saying “What the hell did I just read?”
This is gonna be a bit of a long one, because I’m tackling two posts in one: the post I meant to write last week, before I unexpectedly got majorly sick the entire week leading up to Christmas; and a post I didn’t intend to write, but which seems like it needs to be written after the wild couple of weeks I’ve had. So buckle in and let Lucy explain all the madness! (The title will make sense, I promise!)
Don’t forget to check out my full Christmas playlist on Spotify—I put together all of my favorite Christmas tunes including new and classic artists! Or if you’d prefer a break from holiday music, check out my winter 2018 playlist instead.
One ordinary night, Emma and Cass Tanner disappear. They drive to the beach and seemingly dissolve into thin air. Or maybe only Emma goes to the beach—there’s nothing to say Cass was actually with her. Or maybe they never made it to the beach, though how else do you explain Emma’s shoes left so neatly at the edge of the water?
That’s not where the story begins, however. It begins on another night, three years later, when Cass Tanner reappears. She has a story to tell about what happened that night, and where she’s been for the past three years. Or maybe she’s gotten some of the details confused, and this memory is a product of a shattered mind. Or maybe she’s flat out lying—something about her story doesn’t sound right to Abby, the FBI psychologist who worked the original case and now returns to interview Cass.
I realize that Emma might look a lot like dozens of other thrillers that are published every year. The cover, the title, the subject matter—teen sisters go missing, one comes back, psychological chaos ensures—they’re not necessarily unique. (But is anything, anymore? Still, I digress…) What made this book stand out to me was the author–I previously read All Is Not Forgotten and greatly enjoyed it—but if you don’t have previous experience with Wendy Walker, allow me to give you a few reasons to select her book over another:
- Walker doesn’t mess around with her words. Clocking in at a succinct 300 pages, Emma doesn’t waste your time with scenes or descriptions that are mere fluff. It’s a fast and tightly edited read.
- Like unreliable narrators? Then you’ll like Cass, Walker’s heroine, who walks that fine line between traumatized teen and master manipulator like it’s in her blood. Oh, wait—it is. Which brings me to reason #3:
- The family drama in this book is so out and out crazy, and yet, these characters never feel like caricatures. I’ve read quite a few thrillers where I just never quite connect to any of the players, or where the villains feel one-dimensional. But even if I didn’t necessarily like Walker’s characters, I understood them. She’s a master at creating psychological suspense with people who seem completely normal on the outside, and almost a little bit sympathetic.
So now that I’ve convinced you to read this book, why are you still here? Go grab a copy and curl up for a binge-reading session!
Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker (308 pages). Psychological thriller, suspense, mystery. Four out of five stars. Find it on Goodreads and remember to follow me while you’re there!
Like psychological thrillers about unreliable narrators? You might also like The Last Time I Lied, by Riley Sager (review here).