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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!
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Reading

<i>Reading</i>
Farm to Trouble by Amanda Flower

Listening

<i>Listening</i>
The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs



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