Mini reviews: The Perfect Stranger – Megan Miranda, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day – Seanan McGuire

the perfect strangerIn the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, 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?

Rating: 3/5

But suicide season is the spring. My theory: The world sheds its layers, life springs anew- but you do not. Or you do, and you don’t like what you find.

Unremarkable. Which is unfortunate, since this is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read and I was expecting great things based on the praise for All the Missing Girls, but alas, it left me fairly unmoved. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s two weeks after I read it and it barely left an impression on me.

While I can appreciate books that aren’t all murderous action and take a more subtle approach, I felt that The Perfect Stranger went too far in the other direction – it was a little too underwhelming and understated.

I will say, however, that the author has a talent for evoking an extremely insidious, unsettling atmosphere in this novel, and showcases an extremely plausible case of just how easily an identity can be constructed.

Amazing how something that happened so long ago can feel so fresh. How it could come back to haunt you from nowhere – the innocuous ring of a telephone, the past come to call from the other end.

**

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

**

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or DayWhen her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

Rating: 3.5/5

This was a rather haunting book, no pun intended. It’s a poignant and sensitively done tale with a focus on the theme of suicide – the ones left behind, and the ones who follow.

As usual, McGuire’s creative worldbuilding is on full display; a world of ghosts who can turn themselves tangible at will, and work their way to the other side by ‘stealing’ the time from humans until they reach their death-due date, as it were.

It’s certainly one of the more unique ghost stories that I’ve ever read, but with an emphasis on the very real ideas of community, penance and basic human kindness. And there’s an undercurrent of sadness, but it ends on a hopeful note, and Jenna is someone who you can’t help but root for.

People aren’t so good at being good to one another. We try hard enough, but something essential was left out in the making of us, some hard little patch of stone in the fertile soil that’s supposed to be our hearts. We get hung up on the bad, and we focus on it until it grows, and the whole crop is lost.

**

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

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