Wendy Walker’s first two crime novels, All is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night established her as a powerhouse writer in the crime fiction community, but nothing prepared readers for the splendor that is The Night Before. This is Wendy Walker’s best book to date and readers will be flocking to it for the remainder of the year.
So, why does The Night Before work so well? It’s another in a line of psychological suspense novels with dual narration, unreliable characters, multiple twists, and a shocking conclusion, but the way Wendy Walker draws the reader under her spell is nothing short of magical – almost as though readers are hypnotized and unable to stop until the final page is turned.
Laura Lochner is a woman who has never been good at choosing men. After a tragedy in her youth, she has continually hopped from man to man, never quite finding the one that will make (and keep) her happy. A recent difficult breakup has brought her to her sister’s door – looking to restart her life in the location where it all started going wrong in the first place.
Rosie Ferro cares about her sister, but spends more time worrying about her choices than really building a relationship with Laura. She sees this relocation as a chance to put right what has always been a challenging dynamic. Little does she know, but the stress of welcoming Laura into her home is going to threaten her stable marriage and family life.
As the novel begins, Laura is preparing for her first date with a gentleman she met on an internet dating site. Rosie is sure this is too soon and a very bad idea, but she is unable to talk Laura out of this decision. But when Laura never returns to the house, Rosie begins the process of tracking her sister’s final moments on that fateful date.
Wendy Walker presents her plot in two time periods. Laura’s point of view which slowly documents the date night activities and the ever-increasing menace imposed by this complete stranger. Meanwhile, Rosie’s chapters describe her worry the next morning when it is clear that Laura never made it home and then moves forward in time as Rosie begins her investigation, eventually putting her own life at risk to find out the truth about her sister’s disappearance.
The juxtaposition of the night before and the days after is so compelling that when one point of view interrupts the other, readers just want to skip ahead to see how things in the previous POV continue to unfold. Except, before long, that same reader is sucked into the second point of view perspective and the same pattern repeats. Having two very distinct characters helps the reader keep track of where they are in time, but it is the sister’s love for each other that really bonds the reader with these two women.
Occasionally, both narratives are stopped and readers are given a slowly unfolding question by question accounting of a therapy session that sheds light on some things and makes others even more intriguing. There are multiple twists in The Night Before, and readers who are familiar with the recent rash of psychological suspense novels will likely ferret out a few of them before the characters are able to, but rest assured that Wendy Walker is not a writer interested in following cliché resolutions, so some of the later rejiggered elements are truly surprising, ingenious, and yet, completely believable. This is a work to cherish and I for one cannot wait to see what Wendy Walker does next. She just keeps getting better and better with each new novel.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.