Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: April 11th 2017
My rating: 4 stars
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In the masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls—“think: Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl” (TheSkimm)—a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
There’s something to be said about a book that captures your attention and compels you to read the story straight through in one sitting. While The Perfect Stranger is not without faults, it was a pretty captivating read.
We meet Leah Stevens as she’s making a fresh start in a somewhere-small-town in Pennsylvania. Formerly an investigative sort of journalist, Leah’s left Boston after an article she wrote led to tragedy, a restraining order, and questions regarding her integrity as a reporter. Her move is spur-of-the-moment, impulsive, and encouraged by a college-time friend Leah hasn’t seen in eight years: Emmy. Emmy is a flighty, charismatic, mysterious girl; a girl Leah instantly bonded with all those years ago when Leah was in a desperate place in life. It seems like fate when they by chance meet up again eight years later when once again, Leah is in a desperate situation.
They move to Pennsylvania, rent a cabin in the woods, get jobs, and begin to acclimate to their new life when a woman is assaulted close to their cabin, and soon after Emmy disappears. The search for Emmy spotlights the fact that Leah knows so very little about her friend. Soon the police wonder if Emmy even really existed or some made up character Leah dreamed up to shift suspicions.
At first I was a little stunned at Leah for stupidly, IMO, picking up and moving States with this woman she knew so little about! But as I read on and discovered the extent of damage Leah was trying to escape, I understood the desperation that drove her to act without fully assessing the situation. Emotions ran high and the fight or flight response kicked in.
This first half of the book I felt a real disconnect with Leah. Because of this it wasn’t clear at first if Leah was an unreliable narrator, and I was wondering right along with the police if Emmy was an invention of Leah’s imagination. That didn’t last for long, though. I will say that I never did feel a real connection with any of the characters; they all felt a little remote and held at a distance mentally and emotionally from me as a reader. While I appreciate the romance with Detective Kyle Donovan and Leah, I wouldn’t say it was particularly moving, because I never really felt the attraction between them. I will say I’m pleased it wasn’t a depressing mess like most of the psychological thrillers out there today, but it wasn’t the driving force of the story for me.
The addictive part of this mystery was finding out what was a lie, what was the truth, finding out what exactly happened to Leah back in Boston, getting to the bottom of the whole Emmy situation (friend or foe?), and the current danger Leah was facing in Pennsylvania. I was on the edge of my seat in parts! There were some seriously hair-raising, creepy scenes! Before going to bed I made sure all the windows and doors were locked, because the suspense of the story got to me!
There were a few threads I wish were explained a little more by the end, nothing critical, but for the most part this was a really satisfying, justice-being-served type of conclusion for me.