Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Jan. 2017. 320p. Flatiron, hardcover, $25.99 (9781250111173).
First published November 1, 2016 (Booklist).
Pinborough was already an accomplished author of horror, mysteries, dark fantasy, psychological suspense, and science fiction [for TV], but she has drawn on all of her gifts and expertise to tell her latest story, a masterpiece of suspense centered around a bad marriage that makes Gone Girl look quaint. We are in London where we meet Adele and Louise, our alternating narrators. Adele is a troubled young heiress married to successful psychologist, David. Louise is David’s secretary, and mistress, oh, and she is also Adele’s new best friend. With alternating points of view between Adele and Louise, short chapters, a few key flashbacks, and anxiety and unease beginning on the first page and permeating every word thereafter, the story creates a sense of disorientation and dread that is highly satisfying. But it is with the plot, so tight and yet also intricate, where Pinborough’s prose shines. Not a detail or character appearing in this novel is extraneous. Every single word comes back into play and matters as the story moves to the disturbing conclusion that everyone is talking about [it has it’s own hashtag #wtfThatEnding]. But even knowing this in advance, the ending will still shock you. You will never see it coming, you think you do, but you don’t, and that is a rare joy for readers. You will not be able to look anyone, especially your loved ones, in the eye for a few days after you turn the final page. Give this intense book to patrons freely, but especially target those who have fatigue with the current spate of female driven psychological suspense. While this will be one of the first books you read in 2017, and it could easily remain the best one you experience all year.
More comments: This review was hard to write because I wanted to give all of you enough information to book talk it, but I also could not give away any of the plot twists or the ending but it's an ending that opens up a whole new world of suggestions. It's frustrating yet the frustration is because the book is so well executed. It's hard to be mad at that.
I am not exaggerating above when I say reading this book is an amazing experience.
Three Words That Describe This Book: unreliable narrator, intense, disturbing
Readalikes: Anyone who has been binging on the "Girl" books of psychological suspense but is not finding the satisfaction they did previously should read this book.
If you want a tiny spoiler readalike, click here. That review doesn't have the spoiler, but if you have read that book, you will know a little about what is coming at the end-- not all, but more than anyone else.
Otherworld Chills by Kelley ArmstrongOct. 2016. 464p. Plume, paperback, $16 (9780452298361).
First published October 6, 2016 (Booklist Online).
Back in 2001, Armstrong burst onto the horror scene with Bitten, a smart, sexy, female driven werewolf tale. In the intervening years, Armstrong, and others, popularized a new genre residing somewhere between horror, fantasy, and romance which we now call Paranormal. Thirteen novels and four anthologies set in the Otherworld later, Armstrong is back with what is billed as the final word in the series, a fifth story collection. Containing tales both brand new and those only available on the author’s website, this volume features a wide range of characters from throughout the series. As a result, the tales will appeal to readers differently depending on which characters they most enjoy following. For example, the first entry, “Brazen” is the longest, taking place six months after the final novel in the series, Thirteen, tying up many loose ends. Overall, expect strong female characters, steamy situations, threatening violence, a fast pace, and thought provoking plots. This is obviously a great collection for fans who will love returning to old favorites and having some of their lingering questions answered, but now that the series is complete, it can also serve as an introduction for new readers to dip their toes into the Otherworld to see if they want to dive in fully.
Three Words That Describe This Book: strong female protagonists, fast pace, shared world
Readalikes: As I mention above, Armstrong is one of the innovators of paranormal as it moved out from under the shadows of fantasy and horror into it's own bestselling status. Armstrong's brand of paranormal is closer to horror than romance, meaning her books are more like those of Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs rather than Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan.