My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Leah Stevens needs to get away from Boston. Due to an article she published, her job as a journalist is over thanks to fears of a lawsuit coupled with an in-place restraining order. So when she comes across her old friend Emmy in a bar, the timing seems perfect. Emmy is coming out a bad relationship and she suggests the pair--once former roommates--move to rural Pennsylvania and start over. Leah gets a teaching position at the nearby school, and Emmy picks up a series of odd jobs. But their fresh start is jeopardized when a local woman, with a startling likeness to Leah, is attacked. Then Emmy vanishes, and Leah really starts to worry. Leah works with the local police, but quickly fears she may be under suspicion as well, as it rapidly becomes clear that Leah didn't know Emmy well at all. In fact, Leah is starting to wonder: did Emmy even exist?
This is Miranda's follow-on to All the Missing Girls, and I actually found myself liking THE PERFECT STRANGER even more. While GIRLS hooked you with its backward narrative shtick, STRANGER pulls you immediately with the strength of its story, and it never lets go. Everything in the novel is complicated and interrelated, it seems, and you're constantly digesting details and facts and trying to put these intricately interwoven pieces together, just as Leah is. Because she has a past as a reporter, she's great at digging through facts, but you also can't trust her as a narrator, and it puts you--the reader--in quite a bind. What is true? Who is real? It was a frustrating (in a good way) dilemma, and I loved it.
The novel gets progressively creepier as it unfolds: to the point that I found myself checking the curtains when I was up late at night (frantically reading the book, of course!). I kept wondering what on earth was going on and how everything could possibly fit together. At one point, there was a great plot twist that I totally didn't see coming. I love when that happens! The book kept me puzzling right up until the end. It's really quite spellbinding.
It reminded me a bit of a Mary Kubica novel; you really do start to doubt if Emmy exists. As mentioned, Leah is a very unreliable narrator in many ways. She brings her reporter instincts to this small town (despite trying to escape that part of her past), and it's truly fascinating watching her try to unravel the story. Her searches become really exciting, even if you don't completely trust her or know if you can believe her.
Everything ties together really well. The only downside for me was that the ending was a bit anticlimactic, but the "aha" moments when everything fits together are amazing. It's a really intricate and well-plotted novel. I stayed up late to finish it because I could not go to bed without knowing what had happened. I was more excited about finishing this book than Duke's defeat in the NCAA tournament - that should say a lot. :)
Overall, a very exciting and interesting (and often spooky!) thriller. Definitely recommend.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 04/11/2017.
You can read my review of Megan Miranda's ALL THE MISSING GIRLS here.
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