While it is true that many crime fiction fans enjoy being surprised during the reading process, this has led to some authors stretching credibility in order to embed the wildest twists possible, which can often have the opposite effect, frustrating the reader. However, in a book like Goodnight Beautiful, Aimee Molloy shows that a subtle shift designed to subvert standard genre tropes can have a seismic impact on the reader’s experience. Molloy does this not once, but twice, in Goodnight Beautiful and as a result, the reader closes the cover at the end feeling truly surprised and satisfied.
Sam and Annie had a whirlwind courtship and after only a few weeks of marriage decide to relocate to a small community in upstate New York. Chestnut Hill seems like the perfect place for Sam to open his new psychiatry practice. After all, therapy can be a lifeline for individuals in remote locales and let’s face it, the residents are bound to have secrets, right? Besides, Sam’s mother is in a care facility close by, dealing with dementia, and this move allows them to give her the comfort she needs as she continues to decline.
With Sam focused on his career, Annie finds herself lonely in this new town where she knows no one. It is only when Sam vanishes that Annie realizes that something is very, very wrong. But where do you begin investigating when everyone is a stranger and the police assume your husband is having an affair with one of his patients?
With this relatively simple and straight-forward setup, Aimee Molloy takes the reader on a twisted journey with unexpected revelations and dangerous assumptions. Her prose keeps readers engaged and compels them forward, making Goodnight Beautiful one of those books that demands to be consumed in as few sittings as possible. Along they way, Molloy weaves in such disparate topics as the television show The West Wing, kinky roleplay, Stephen King’s Misery, and oh yes…that yellow wallpaper that adorns Sam’s office, which is almost certainly meant to evoke Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story.
Once read, Goodnight Beautiful will not be forgotten. Aimee Molloy uses the reader’s familiarity with crime fiction traditions as a shield to obfuscate deliberate misdirection and clever manipulation. Coupled with her excellent debut, The Perfect Mother, the release of Goodnight Beautiful solidifies Aimee Molloy’s tenure in the crime fiction realm as one that will be marked with inventive storytelling and complex characterization, all in the service of extremely entertaining novels.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.