I’ve been reading a lot of very impressive debut novels recently and Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg is yet another. It’s a book about secrets – that much is made clear from the outset. But it’s the holder/s of those secrets that comes as a surprise.Girl in the Rearview Mirror
by Kelsey Rae Dimberg
Published by Macmillan
on June 25th 2019
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Desperate to put her past in the rearview mirror, Finn Hunt leaves the Midwest for Phoenix, Arizona, where no one knows her story.
While she’s working a dead-end job, a chance meeting with Philip Martin, son of a prominent US Senator, leads Finn to a position as nanny for Amabel, his precocious four-year-old daughter. Quickly seduced into the Martins’ privileged world, Finn can almost believe she belongs there, almost forget the dark past that haunts her.
Then, in the stifling heat of a desert summer as the Senator’s re-election looms, a strange woman begins to follow Finn, claiming a connection to Philip and threatening to expose the family to scandal. As Finn tries to protect Amabel, and shield the Martins, she’s inadvertently drawn deeper and deeper into their buried secrets.
The family trusts Finn, for now, but it will only take one mistake for everything she holds dear – the Martins’ world, her new life – to fall apart.
As an aside I’ve written about the rearview mirror vs windscreen thing… as an analogy or metaphor or whatever re looking forward or looking back. Which has nothing to do with this book except that Finn’s left her past behind her. She’s a bit sketchy about her secrets, though we eventually learn more.
The life she’s living now is one Instagrammers would say is kinda #blessed. She’s looking after a child she adores for a wealthy family. She has a boyfriend who takes her nice places and treats her well. She’s seemingly estranged from her parents (and her past) so finally feels like she’s a part of something; so feeling settled and happy.
However… there’s an underlying sense of unease for we readers. Finn seems a tad too besotted with Amabel’s father than would be prudent and her personal and professional lives are intertwined in quite a complex way.
Even Bryant her boyfriend suggests she keep them separate though he’s one of the links between the two.
So when Finn’s approached by the mystery woman (Iris) her life is upturned and she questions everything she knows about her employers.
Of course we get the feeling her concern isn’t altogether agenda-free. She loves Amabel, that’s obvious, but my discomfort grew the more time I spent with Finn. We’re in her head though so it’s hard not to relate to her. And she’s mostly likeable but in many ways she’s like the (recently-popular) unreliable narrator we want to slap around the head to knock some sense into lest she further traverse the line between right and wrong.
Tragedy strikes and I was immediately suspicious. Though no one else is. Am I that cynical? Perhaps I read too many books about nefarious psychopaths? But I kept waiting for there to be more to that part of the story, to no avail. (Almost!)
Suddenly Finn has been cast adrift – though not by Bryant which was a surprise but a relief for this anti-romantic.
Finn’s frustrated by how those around her are trying to control ‘the story’, which is natural but quite frankly she’s a bit of a loose cannon and takes some ridiculous chances.
It’s then we learn more about her background and understand her a little better. Though all honesty Finn’s secrets weren’t as dire as I was expecting. They felt a little anticlimactic, though perhaps I’m giving too much away by saying that. They’re certainly ‘fodder’ for those in her current life but hardly worth protecting as resolutely as she deemed necessary.
Of course things get interesting in a way that we don’t expect and the secrets kept are certainly not those I was expecting.
I raced through this well-paced book. It’s not predictable and – given the sad event that turns this tale on its head – we know that Dimberg won’t be concerned about the good guys winning or, well… even surviving. And that kept me reading. Not to mention an eagerness to find out how Finn would ultimately fare.
The biggest challenge for readers of this book will probably be the likability (or lack thereof) of the characters. Even Finn is a struggle. Amabel’s parents are self-absorbed and inconsistent, Bryant seems a tad manipulative, and even the Senator (who we don’t meet much) seems more style than substance. And of course Iris, our interloper is far from engaging.
This is a good debut novel. Perhaps ultimately a little frustrating in terms of closure or resolution. Or perhaps that was just me.
Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan on 25 June 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.