Tess Stimson is the British author of ten novels, including top-ten bestseller The Adultery Club, and two non-fiction books, which between them have been translated into dozens of languages.
Her first “proper” job after graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she read English) was as a news trainee with ITN (Independent Television News). She reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the globe.
In 2002, she was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Florida and moved to the US. She now lives and works in Vermont with her husband, Erik, their three children, and (at the last count) two cats, three fish, one gerbil and a large number of bats in the attic.
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What I Loved
That ending! Sometimes when talking about a book, you have to start with the end. The conclusion was such a surprise and so full of thrilling action that it took my breath away. I thought I had the ending nailed from early on, but surely those clues I noticed were red herrings? Surely. But as the story progressed, it looked as if I figured it out. And when my suspicions were going to be confirmed, they exploded right in front of my eyes. My hat is off to Tess Stimson for leading me astray so well with just a few well-placed red herrings and then blowing my mind.
The surprising and original narration stood out to me as one of the aspects that makes this story different from all the other domestic thrillers out there. I’ve never seen it done quite like that, and it blew my mind, too, in a more subtle, psychological thriller way. When you realize what is happening with the narration, you have to stop and go, “Wait a minute. What!” in all the best possible ways.
So many secrets! Everyone in the wedding party had secrets that made them a suspect in the kidnapping, and most of them were doozies. The way all of those puzzle pieces made of secrets came together or didn’t at the end kept the suspense alive and thriving with each turn of the page.
Even with all the suspense and secrets happening, the author found time to point out that not all missing children get the same treatment. Children of color who go missing don’t often get the same coverage and attention that white children do. Also, the story took the time to point out that no mother can stand up to the intense scrutiny that child abduction brings to their life and the subsequent judgment on their mothering skills. I can’t imagine any mother out there who hasn’t made one or two poor decisions when it comes to their children, but luckily most of us don’t have those moments revealed, discussed, and judged. Or have them turn into a dire situation.
Lottie is probably the most entertaining character with her precociousness and sass that only a three-year-old can make cute. The main character and very unreliable narrator for most of the story is Lottie’s mother, Alexa. She is a single working mom, just doing the best she can with her high-pressure job as a lawyer and as a mother. Even though we never learn much of her back story, the person she is now is painted in minute detail. And lastly, there is Quinn. She is a journalist with a giant chip on her shoulder and living life one step at a time as she struggles with the pain from an accident while in the field. She is a very intriguing character with her determination and penchant for being her own worst enemy.
Reminds Me Of
I get Lisa Jewell-type vibes with the use of the unreliable narrator and the way the progression of the plot reflects the state of mind of the character. But, I would argue that this story very much has a voice that makes it unique within the genre.
What I Wish
Some plot gaps exist, but I quickly can look past them because of that fantastic ending. I do wish there hadn’t been so much of a slow down in the middle. Though, I will say it made me think of what the waiting must be like for Alexa. Waiting years for news of your missing child, feeling like more can be done, must be excruciating
☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️ (5 out of 5)
To Read or Not to Read
If you are looking for a story that will blow you away with its manipulations, creative use of red herrings, and simply shocking conclusion, then this is a must-read for you.