It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.
What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.
As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.*
I had just 60 pages left in this book when I closed up the library I work at last night. 60! It doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a thriller, there is no end to the amount of crazy things that can happen in 60 pages. The entire two-hour drive home (gotta love rush hour on Long Island), I found myself wishing that I had the audiobook so I could end the suspense. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, considering I read half of this book in a day–it’s addicting.
The protagonist of the novel, Sophie, is so down-to-earth that it’s easy to love her from the start. I knew from the moment she talked about having to reapply deodorant on a particularly hot and stressful day that I was going to like her, and that feeling didn’t go away by the end. That’s really saying something because I normally become easily irritated with characters for certain flaws or for acting/not acting the way it’s so obvious they should/shouldn’t. That was never the case with Sophie. She acts exactly the way any other person would in her situation and can’t be held responsible for what happens to her.
The setting of this book is a unique one. I’d like to think I’m relatively well-read, but I haven’t come across a book whose action largely takes place in a publishing company. It was a real call back to my own time in publishing, and made me want to immediately phone my old colleagues to thank them for not being anything like Sophie’s co-workers. The publishing house seems so innocent, especially since it is a children’s company, which contrasts nicely with the horror that takes place there.
A lot of horrors take place in the story, as I’m sure one can imagine given the genre. It’s almost Gothic in its portrayal of a family tortured by poor genes, attempting to maintain an outward image of perfection and an enviable upper-class lifestyle. There are more everyday horrors included as well, though, like a social media hacking that has serious consequences. It was nice to see mention of Justine Sacco–though not by name–and her poorly phrased Tweet about AIDS in Africa. This sort of public shaming and life-altering fallout can happen to anyone, whether due to a status written personally or by a hacker. It was interesting to see these real-life “nightmares” placed alongside the terrible things we like to believe only happen in books or movies.
Mark tips his hat to a common theme in classic literature: We can never truly know what is going on inside the mind of another person, and therefore we cannot trust anyone. Further than that, we can never trust our own impressions of a person either. Sophie learns this lesson again and again as the truth begins to unravel itself.
The tension of the working mother is included in here as well. The injustice at women’s place in an office with a child at home is brought up and though this is something that has been long debated and discussed, it cannot be mentioned too many times. Just because Sophie decides to return to her career does not diminish the love she has for Daisy. Motherly love and the desire to protect one’s child is an extremely powerful force, and ultimately helps Sophie prevail against her enemies.
There are so many other themes and layers of nuance I could write about this story–one major one that I didn’t include is the way one’s past can come back to haunt them, shown here through flashback chapters. This book operates on a lot of levels, which is part of what makes it so wonderful. If you’re into psychological thrillers and can handle a little bit of emotional trauma, definitely give this book a read!
*The cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com. I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.