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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

‘Emma in the Night’ by Wendy Walker

Published by HQ,
8 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-00-825920-4 (PB)

The reappearance of a character who disappeared some time before the book begins isn't an uncommon theme in mystery fiction, and as with all recurring ideas, the real challenge the author faces is how to make it different.

Three years before the start of Emma in the Night, two teenage girls vanished almost without trace, and the best efforts of the FBI to find them proved fruitless. Now one has returned. The story she tells is almost bizarre: the night her older sister ran away, she hid in the back of her car, and the two of them were hustled off to a remote island where they lived with an adult couple for three years. Emma, the older sister, was pregnant, and gave birth to a baby girl, who was claimed by the couple. The younger sister, Cass, eventually escaped, and now desperately wants Emma and the baby found and rescued.

The story unfolds in two threads: Cass's first-person account of the events which led to the sisters' disappearance and what happened during their three years' absence; and the more analytical third-person view of Abby, the FBI psychologist charged with getting to the bottom of the mystery, both when the girls disappeared and now Cass has returned. It's one of those cases which has refused to let Abby set it aside, and her determination to get to the truth is the driving force behind the investigation.

It all takes place against a background of dysfunctional family life: a mother who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, a stepson obsessed with Emma, a stepfather equally obsessed with his own importance and a natural father too weak to be of much help. Cass herself is damaged by both her past and the kidnapping experience; Abby has her own issues.

Wendy Walker is a skilful writer; she weaves past and present, character and plot into a web so tangled that I was left wondering how Cass could possibly extricate herself. At the same time, she plants seeds of unease: a sense that more is going on under the surface than anyone can discern – as if the surface itself wasn't complex enough to satisfy any mystery lover. It's the job of Abby and her lead investigator Leo to dig down, and reveal the story that Cass is really trying to tell.

It's not an easy book to read; Walker had done her homework on narcissistic personality disorder, and the picture she paints is not a pretty one. But though it's a disturbing story, it's also deeply satisfying in terms of complex characters, well-structured plot and good old-fashioned storytelling. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Wendy Walker is a former family law attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten. Her second thriller, Emma In The Night, will be released August 8, 2017. Wendy earned her J. D., magna cum laude, at the Georgetown University Law Center where she was awarded the American Jurisprudence award for her performance in Contracts and Advanced Criminal Procedure.  She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University and attended The London School of Economics and Political Science as part of her undergraduate studies. Prior to her legal career, Wendy was a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., in the mergers and acquisitions group. She has also volunteered at the ACLU, Connecticut Legal Services and Figure Skating in Harlem where she served on the Board of Directors for over twelve years.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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