Kate Youngblood outwardly has it all. She’s a well respected professor, wrote a critically acclaimed first novel, and has a good home and friends. But underneath, she’s reaching her late thirties and feels lost. Her husband has left her for a younger woman, she fears her first book might be the best writing she’ll ever do, her best friend is becoming absorbed in her growing family and has less time for her, and she’s working hard to make tenure. She also feels conflicted about growing older. Perhaps that’s why when Sam joins her class, his handsome face and brilliant writing draw her curiosity. But there’s a lot more to Sam than meets the eye…
I really enjoy a good psychological thriller, and this one was a really entertaining read. It alternates between chapters from Kate to Sam, which makes it all the more chilling as we often know more about what’s going on than she does. The book builds tension really well throughout the novel, with each chapter bringing it all a little closer, or revealing a little about the past of each character.
I also like Gehrman’s writing style. It feels immediate, interesting, well plotted and the characters all feel well delineated. I did find that Kate Youngblood’s obsession with her age meant that she had some pretty negative thoughts about herself and especially about older people and sometimes that annoyed me. And yet it’s that insecurity that makes her the perfect target for a stalker. And I think that dynamic really worked.
Sometimes crime fiction or thrillers are all pace, but no psychology. I really liked that this book has characters whose motivations and psychological makeup felt real. Kate isn’t a fool, but she is drawn in initially by the intelligence of Sam, his talent and his flattering attention. Like in real cases, the escalation is slow, and sometimes there’s not much more than a feeling that’s something is off, until it’s too late. Sam also is not a cookie cutter bad guy or a creepy loner, he is like a lot of “bad guys” in real life: able to fit in in social situations, good looking and articulate. The way he thinks about the world and his behaviour, his actions, are all well thought out by the author, and though chilling, fit with the way people like him really process the world and relationships. It’s that aspect as well as it being a well paced and interesting story that really kept me hooked.
Read it if: it should please readers who like thrillers, crime or true crime books. If you liked things like Girl On The Train or Gone Girl, then you’ll enjoy this too.