Book Title and Author: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Publication date and Publisher: August 8, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: July 13, 2017
From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…
One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
Emma in the Night is one of the most twisted and disturbing psychological thrillers to has completely hold my interest this summer. If you’re a lover of psychological suspense, like your stories filled with drama and thrills, and insist they be intelligently crafted and extremely well-written, then look no further! An excellent and intelligent premise, a strongly driven plot, characters that are well-developed and range from intelligent, toxic, extremely unlikable, likable, and flawed all entwine to make this novel an exceptional read! This was my first Wendy Walker book, but it won’t be my last!
I was spellbound by the story of the two Tanner sisters, Emma and Cass, who vanished one night at the ages of 17 and 15. There had been no traces of either girl in the years since they had gone missing, so Emma was presumed dead since her car and purse were found abandoned at the beach and no one knew what happened to Cass, who had vanished without a trace. The FBI searched but failed to find anything although Dr. Abigail (Abby) Winter, FBI forensic psychiatrist suspected the Tanner household was highly dysfunctional, neglectful, and that Mrs. Martin, the girl’s mother was suffering from a pathological narcissistic personality disorder, which was the reason for the girl’s disappearances. Abby was never given a chance to pursue her theories though before the case was shut down.
The story really begins when Cass suddenly reappears on her mother’s doorstep three years later, very much alive…and alone. Cass’s reappearance instigates a reopening of the FBI investigation when all she can tell anyone, in the beginning, is they must find Emma! Emma is alive! This prompts Mrs. Martin to repeatedly tell everyone that Cass is suffering from mental delusions and needs a psychiatric evaluation. I immediately wondered what Mrs. Martin was hiding and why she wanted Cass to have mental delusions instead for Cass to be telling the truth. Why was the mother not more concerned about finding her oldest daughter alive?! This led me to suspect certain things and although I was wrong about a few suspicions, I was right about others, including the big reveal at the end. It was excellent fun to delve into the psyches of all these characters and see just how twisted and messed up so many of them were! Walker did an excellent job introducing so many disturbing psychological aspects to the story that it was brilliant. However, if you are not into behavioral or cognitive psychology like I am, then this might not be the book for you since it is heavy on a lot of these themes.
Cass tells her story in the first person POV, and it is not only a quite mysterious tale of where she has been but a horrific one of an emotionally abusive mother throughout her childhood. Cass is a strong young woman, but she is an unreliable narrator, which only made the story more captivating and enthralling! If you can’t trust the protagonist, then who do you trust? I certainly wasn’t sure what to believe as Cass told the FBI that they were held captive on an island, and she had only escaped with the promise to return for Emma. I’m not going to go into the details of how the sisters came to be on the island since that part is very integral to the later plot, and I think the reader needs to go into that part completely blind and without any ideas that will spoil the story! The reader needs to be shocked when Cass makes her big reveal about what happened the night they both disappeared because believe me, it is shocking!
What was horrible to read was Cass’s recollections of what it was like being raised in such a dysfunctional family where verbal and emotional abuse was the norm, fights between Emma and her mother were rampant, her mother gave and took her love like it was a prize to be won, and there was an unnatural interest in both Emma and Cass by their new stepbrother. It is these recollections that help convince the reader the girls ran away that night(but did they?) and were much better off far away. But if so, why did Cass reappear at all at her mother’s house three years later? Besides getting Emma off the island, what is she up to?
Dr. Winter reappears as the FBI investigation unfolds and her voice is the second POV in the story. She has the same feeling something is very wrong in the Martin/Tanner household that she had the first time she encountered Mrs. Martin. She herself is the daughter of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder, so she is all too familiar with the signs of a mother who must be placated by their children and told they are the best, most loved, most beautiful of all and are always in competition with their children. She sees all the signs as Cass placates her mother, always wants her around and is very docile towards her; yet, Abby is also reading signs that there is more to Cass’s actions than meets the eye just as there is so much more to what is really going on with the story Cass tells about her and Emma’s disappearance and her escape.
Emma in the Night was such an addictive read! I loved how it made me question what was real and what wasn’t since I love my suspense to be unpredictable! And the ending was more than shocking, it was intense and superb in every way! I highly recommend Wendy Walker’s newest novel if you want to read a satisfying family drama full of mystery, secrets, revenge, love, and hate. You can’t go wrong with what will be one of summer’s hottest psychological suspense hits!
**Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Wendy Walker for an ARC of this novel in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.**