Domestic Suspense from Ellison, Finn, Frances, and Rouda

Ellison, J.T. Lie to Me. Mira: Harlequin. Sept. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780778313649. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780778330950. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488025143. F

Sutton and Ethan Montclair, beautiful and successful, appear to be the perfect couple. But beneath the picture-perfect exterior and behind closed doors, there are deep and active levels of ambivalence and manipulation, with each spouse trying to best the other at every turn. After a particularly dramatic episode, Sutton disappears, leaving a note that Ethan should not look for her. Is she setting her husband up for a fall, or did Ethan decide to sever his relationship with her permanently? Reminiscent of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Ellison’s (All the Pretty Girls) stand-alone is a suspenseful, twisty psychological thriller, told from Sutton’s and Ethan’s alternating perspectives, about an upwardly mobile yet amazingly dysfunctional couple. It is not particularly innovative beyond those points, but the narrative flows well between the two viewpoints, and readers will alternately hate and sympathize with each character. ­Verdict Fans of Paula Hawkins, A.S.A. Harrison, Mary Kubica, and Karin ­Slaughter will want to add this to their summer reading list. [See Prepub Alert, 3/13/17.].—Nicole A. Cooke, GSLIS, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

redstarFinn, A.J. The Woman in the Window. Morrow. Jan. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9780062678416. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678447. F

DEBUT Likened to blockbusters by Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, and Ruth Ware—and billed as the breakout book of 2018—Finn’s debut lives up to the hype. The title, also the name of a 1944 film noir, refers to both the protagonist, Dr. Anna Fox, and the horrific scene she witnesses from her kitchen window. An agoraphobic and former child psychologist, Anna spends her days in her Harlem brownstone drinking Merlot by the case, watching old black-and-white mysteries, and spying on her neighbors. Her latest obsession is the new family across the park, the Russells. The trio—a husband, wife, and teen son—remind Anna of her own husband and young daughter, who no longer live with her. Anna’s peeping soon reveals what she’s positive is a murder and hasty cover-up. But no one—including the police—believe the ravings of a hermit who consistently mixes prescription medication with large doses of alcohol. VERDICT With overt and subtle references to classic thrillers from Hitchcock to Polanski, Finn, a pen name for William Morrow executive editor Dan Mallory, crafts a tightly coiled tale that will keep fans of the genre guessing. A riveting and mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre. [See Prepub Alert, 7/3/17.]—­Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Frances, Michelle. The Girlfriend. Kensington. Feb. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9781496712462. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781496712486. F

DEBUT Laura Cavendish is well-off, elitist, and distanced from her philandering husband. Her whole world revolves around her grown son, Daniel. When Daniel announces that he has a new love in his life—a gorgeous and ambitious woman named Cherry—Laura can’t wait to meet her, if only to size her up. Not surprisingly, Laura doesn’t think much of her son’s new catch. A psychological roller-coaster ensues as two devious, unlikable women fight for ­Daniel’s attention. The writing jumps from one point of view to another at a moment’s notice, often within the same scene. The head-hopping narrative can be unnecessarily distracting as the reader is volleyed back and forth. VERDICT Despite its flaws, this debut novel will appeal to fans of fast-paced psychological thrillers led by deliciously vile female characters.—Erin Entrada Kelly, Philadelphia

redstarRouda, Kaira. Best Day Ever. Graydon. Sept. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781525811401. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488027871. F

Promising an idyllic respite from their everyday routine, “the best day ever,” Paul Strom whisks his wife, Mia, away from their suburban home in Columbus, OH, to Lake Erie for a romantic weekend. Their lakeside retreat, in its prestigious gated community, is just one benefit of the couple’s extravagant lifestyle. Paul and the much younger Mia met a decade ago at the advertising agency where he was an executive and she a promising newcomer. After a whirlwind romance, they married, set up housekeeping, and Mia spent the next decade at home raising their two young sons. As Paul narrates this memorable day in their life, offering glimpses into the past and hints of his motivations for the trip, disturbing secrets bubble under the surface, threatening to compromise their relaxing vacation. ­Verdict This latest psychological thriller from best-selling Rouda (The Goodbye Year) is destined to fly off the shelves, enticing readers to ride along as this multifaceted day in the life of the Stroms unfolds.—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

 

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