Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: Disclaimer by Renee Knight

From Goodreads:
Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction,The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew--and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.
I'm torn on this one.  I think the author certainly achieved what she set out to accomplish in terms of creating suspense, unreliable narrators, and a mystery that keeps the reader digging.  I stayed up quite late with this one two nights in a row, which is always high praise.  My one qualm in saying that I thoroughly approved of the writing is this: the suspense in the entire first half of the book comes from something the characters know that is withheld from the reader.  We get a first person point of view from the author of the mysterious book and we get a third person semi-omniscient point of view with Catherine, but we're not told about the event that occurs in the book, although we know it is something horrific.  And I'm just not sure, even now, whether or not I really like that as a device.  I've seen it in some other psychological thrillers, but somehow it just grates on my nerves to know that the characters have the full story and the author is just holding it back purely to keep us in suspense.  It's something that is so obviously a device that it takes me out of the story and brings my attention to the writing - which isn't necessarily something I want out of a thriller, even a more literary thriller.

As far as the writing is concerned beyond this device, I have absolutely no complaints.  I'm not sure I'd put it in the category of literary, but I think it certainly belongs in a different quality of literature than the mass-produced generic thriller.  It's got much more thought and depth and doesn't rely on cheap thrills and gore to keep the reader titillated.

Entertainment Value
Obviously, I couldn't it down.  It's fairly long, but I read it in two sittings - both of which kept me up significantly past bedtime.  While I didn't love how the withheld information about what is contained in the book was the main pull of the first portion of the book, that doesn't mean I wasn't fully intrigued.  And once the story is revealed, piece by piece, I found myself overcome with the suspense, to the point that I no longer felt like I was reading a plot device, but a dark and twisty narrative.  I loved slowly realizing how the author really means business and seeing the lengths to which he was willing to go to ruin Catherine's life.  And I also loved how Catherine herself wasn't always likable and how she dealt with what happened and how it is now being revealed in ways that are surprisingly real in the way that they are so damaging.

I think this will definitely appeal to those who, like me, have become obsessed with dark psychological thrillers that are much more based around the mind and the actions of normal people who are pushed to their limits than they are about blood and gore.  This one is full of characters that are both hard to like and sympathetic at times.  I'd certainly put it in the same category as books by Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.  It lives up to the hype, in my opinion, and is certainly worth reading by those who are fans of the genre.

Thanks to TLC for having me on the tour.  Click here to see other reviews.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! This is my favorite type of thriller -- some good suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat, and good writing that gives me something to chew on, so to speak. I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for being on the tour!