Monday, August 19, 2019

Debut Psychological Thriller Sad, But Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In the few months since her husband died in a pilot-suicide airliner crash, Tess Clarke has managed not to fall apart completely.  Yet.  Wracked with grief, she's plowing through her days with only enough energy to make meager meals for her 8-year-old son, walk him to school in her pajamas, and cry herself to sleep at night.  Despite her brother-in-law's increasingly desperate attempts to get Tess to move ahead with taking care of her husband's probate, she's too numb to make any big decisions.  All she wants is for time to reverse itself and go back to the days when life made sense.

When Shelley Lange, a concerned grief counselor, comes into Tess' life, it's as if a ray of sunshine has penetrated her gloom.  For the first time since Mark's death, she feels a glimmer of hope.  Then, strange things start happening—threatening phone calls, a shadowy form watching Tess' every move, and disturbing behavior from her brother-in-law.  As things escalate, Tess is forced to question everything she thought she knew.  Was steady, trustworthy Mark involved in something dangerous, something that led to his untimely death?  Are Tess and her son safe?  And who is Shelley, really?  Why is she, a virtual stranger, so obsessed with Tess' son?  As Tess searches for answers, she'll have to face some painful, heart-breaking truths, truths that could destroy what little sanity she has left.

The Perfect Son, a debut novel by Lauren North, is a compelling and twisty page-turner that kept me guessing until the end.  I love psychological thrillers that keep me feeling off-kilter, never quite sure what's true and what's not, and this one did that well.  Novels of this ilk are often gory, graphic, and disturbing—The Perfect Son is milder than the norm, a fact I very much appreciated.  While it's a sad, depressing tale for sure, The Perfect Son also tells a compelling, engaging story that had me reading fast and furious to find out what was going to happen.  I enjoyed it and will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this talented debut author.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson and The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a copy of The Perfect Son from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

9 comments:

  1. I'm always on the lookout for new authors, and happy to see that this is a thriller that actually thrills.

    My one question is that the plot sounds kind of familiar because some variation or another of it has been used by so many writers. Does the plot seem fresh to you, or overly familiar? I think I've read so many thrillers now that I'm in danger of losing the thrill. That happened to me with horror novels years ago, and I knew that love affair was over when they started making me laugh instead of being afraid to turn the lights out and go to bed.

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    1. I wouldn't call this one "fresh" since it utilizes a lot of familiar tropes. It did keep me reading and guessing, even though it has a very similar plot line to a popular, much-hyped book, and I definitely should have seen the similarities. I'm gullible :)

      I get what you're saying. It's easy to get burned out when the market gets over-saturated with a certain type of book. I think I'm getting there with psychological thrillers, but not quite yet!

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  2. I do enjoy psychological suspense, though I've been burned out on the same familiar tropes. This one seems a bit different, and I see from the review that this can be a downer. Thanks for sharing thoughts and I might read it anyway, despite the depressing plot.

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    1. It *feels* a little bit different from others I've read, but it definitely utilizes familiar, over-used trope. Like I said above, though, I still didn't figure everything out until the very end!

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  3. I want to read this! I enjoyed The a woman in the Window too. There are so many of this genre appearing now, that it helps to get a good review from someone I trust. Thanks!

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    1. There are SOOOO many psychological thrillers on the market and too many of them are just the same ole, same ole. THE PERFECT SON isn't super unique, but I liked it better than a lot of other ones I've read.

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  4. I like it when thrillers don't have to be gory and they keep me on my toes. This one sounds good.

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    1. Exactly! I really appreciate that about this one. It's atmospheric and tense, but not the kind of thing that's going to give you nightmares.

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  5. I do enjoy a book that keeps me guessing. I want to read this one, but am hoping my library or KU might make it available. I have read many positive things about this book. Great review Susan.

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