EMMA IN THE NIGHT,
BY WENDY WALKER
PUBLICATION: ST. MARTIN’S PRESS; AUGUST 8, 2017
About the book:
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.
Holy disfunction! Fasten your seat belts for this one folks! Wendy Walker’s upcoming novel, Emma In The Night, is an absolute page-turner psychological thriller that you will not soon forget.
Who, What, When, Where:
One night, two sisters Emma and Cass disappeared into the night. Emma was 17-years-old at the time and Cass was 15-years old. Three years later, Cass shows up back at her mother and stepfather’s home without Emma.
Their parents had divorced several years earlier leaving their Dad, Owen Tanner, depressed about the break-up and about his wife Judy’s affair. Judy re-married Joe Martin, considering him more important and masculine than Owen.
Other prominent figures are Will, half-brother to the girls from Owen’s previous marriage and Hunter, their spoiled step-brother.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter has spent years trying to figure out the missing piece to the girls’ disappearance and is also somewhat of an expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. When her old colleague Leo contacts her to let her know Cass has returned, the two FBI agents set out to figure out what happened and why.
Thoughts and Reactions:
After returning without Emma, Cass begins to share bits and pieces of her story slowly, almost like some teasing dance. She tells tales of her and Emma being taken to an island with a couple, Bill, and Lucy, that Emma had located to help her – Cass coming along wasn’t the plan. She recounts the years on the island and the one other person they ever saw being a man named Rick that brought them supplies by boat.
Their mother, Judy Martin, alternates between doting on Cass after her return and discounting her stories saying that she is crazy. The dad is trying to wrap his arms around everything and the step-dad is basically staying out of the way unless summoned by Judy or the FBI agents.
Abby Winter and her sister Meg grew up with a mother having Narcissistic Personality Disorder and based her doctoral thesis on the topic, therefore, she feels certain she sees the signs of the illness in Judy, as well as, the after-effects and coping skills in Cass and Emma (Emma based on stories on accounts from others).
Avoiding spoilers I will say this, Emma In The Night has several twists and surprises that made this an unbelievable suspense/thriller. As Cass says to the investigators early in the novel,
“We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe.”
Wendy Walker takes us from the return of one missing girl to a complete reveal of a very sick family. Abby suspected the answer lied within the family when the girls disappeared, but it’s only as Cass shares what happened to her that the puzzle pieces finally start coming together. Even when I thought everything had concluded, the author still surprised me at the very end.
Quite honestly, this was difficult to read at times because of Judy Martin’s character. One of her frequent statements as the girls were growing up was,
“Am I a good mother? The best mother you could ever want?”
If you frequently read my blog posts, you are aware that I have serious mommy issues. I’ve tried to come to terms with it all and it’s actually a daily effort, despite today being the second anniversary of when I last had to see her. But some of the “Mommie Dearest” actions and statements throughout this novel made me cringe, as well as, seeing the evidence of how having a narcissistic parent affects someone’s life beyond childhood and into adulthood.
On the other hand, although I related to Abby’s observations of Judy and that a lot of the information is verifiable information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I also felt overwhelmed with it at times. About halfway through the novel, I felt like a great deal of Abby’s research into the disorder was being repeated without any benefit to the overall plot.
Otherwise, I have absolutely zero complaints or criticism regarding this novel. Wendy Walker has expertly woven an edge-of-your-seat thriller that promises several surprises along the way. This is definitely not a light, happy read, however, it was beautifully crafted and held my interest from beginning to end. Emma In The Night paints a disturbing picture of family, lies, greed, narcissism, neglect, and more. Sounds depressing I know, but it was a hell of a read that I absolutely recommend.
Any screenwriters reading this out there? This needs to be adapted to a movie asap!
*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.