Last year I read Megan Miranda’s ingenious All The Missing Girls. It was cleverly written. Backwards. Like the movie Memento. I very much enjoyed the novel but the logical part of my brain tried to piece everything together chronologically and I was a little concerned it didn’t entirely flow as it should have.
The book – Miranda’s first non young adult novel – was very well received though and her second book has been eagerly awaited.
The Perfect Stranger
by Megan Miranda
Published by Simon & Schuster
on April 11th 2017
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1501107992, 9781501107993
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again.
But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all?
With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey.
Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
One of Miranda’s talents is being able to flesh out the plot without letting readers in on the characters’ secrets. It’s obvious we’re supposed to become suspicious of Leah and I pondered on the notion of a split personality / dissociative identity disorder from the get-go. And there’s really nothing in the narrative that gives it away – either way.
We’ve really only got Leah’s word that there’s an Emmy… and her identity becomes murkier and less evident as time goes on.
I was an adolescent when I first started to see myself as two people. The feeling that you are at all times both subject and object. That I was both walking down the hall and watching myself walk down the hall. p72
When something had happened, some crack, some slip, and the other Leah, the one underneath, the one who lived with Emmy for a summer—the who was was not as put together or as solid and unchanging—would become visible…. p 88
This is a book about secrets. Leah has her own… an investigation into a number of incidents which resulted in her move and loss of her job as a reporter. Interestingly she feels blameless and has no regrets and Miranda does a good job in eking out why.
There’s the mysterious Emmy who manages to beguile Leah each time she’s entered her life. I was initially agog at the idea of Leah moving in with Emmy on meeting her (first time around) but had to remind myself what it’s like to be young and desperate. And without literal baggage.
Then there’s Leah’s doppelgänger, the victim of an attack… possibly by someone Leah knows. And also in the mix are Leah’s students, some of whom know more about her life than they should.
I enjoyed the plot itself and the ‘whodunnit’ element, but it was also interesting to watch Leah’s growth. We learn she was an excellent student but things fell apart when she didn’t get the job she expected after University. She recovered, obviously but then she feels she needs to hide her latest failure (losing her job) from her high-achieving sister and her mother – who worked hard to give her daughters every opportunity and had heightened expectations as a result.
I was unprepared for the shock of failure—it had never happened before. p 63
And later when her world was less about herself, the realisation…
I had believed everyone was something are than they were….I had cast my life and assigned the roles, manufacturing all of them into the people I wanted them to be. pp 242-243
I very much enjoyed this well-written and well-paced book by Miranda and loved the characters she offers we readers. They’re complex but real and ultimately very likeable.
The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda will be published by Simon & Schuster on 11 April 2017.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher for review purposes.