By: Susan Strecker
Publisher: St Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: 3/1/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
Featured Weekend Read Feb 5
"In the end, this is a novel about great loss and refusal to surrender to the pain of this loss, showing instead how one can learn to live with it and, ultimately, find forgiveness and love as a survivor. Compulsively readable." --Kirkus Reviews
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Cover Love.
Susan Strecker returns following her dynamic debut, Night Blindness, with another family in crisis. NOWHERE GIRL, a riveting and distinctive mix of contemporary, young adult, wit, mystery, psychological, crime, sex, and domestic family suspense. Top Books of 2016.
"Where nothing is ever as it seems."
Beyond the novel’s taut suspense and subtle characterization, Strecker’s vivid prose, unique structure, and unexpected twists, provides an additional pleasure. Fans of Jodi Picoult, Amy Hatvany, Jo Jo Moyes, Diane Chamberlain, T. Greenwood, and Carla Buckley will enjoy the complexity and highly charged emotional topics.
“All my life I’d remember that moment. But it was only in my thirty-third year that Savannah decided to finally return to save my life by leading me to her killer.”
It had been 5,914 days since she had been gone.
Candace (Cady) was the twin sister of Savannah. Growing up in Kingswood, her sister was the beautiful, sexy, charismatic, and promiscuous one; always having her twin to cover for her. Sneaking out of the house, getting high, and having sex since age fourteen. She was the popular one with older, cooler friends; secret boy crushes. However, Cady was protective of her sister, she loved her. Did she tell her all her secrets?
As the book opens, we go back sixteen years, (1998) when Savannah does not show up to meet her twin, Cady. As twins often do, she knows the minute of her death--she knows her sister is in trouble, but afraid it is too late. She felt the tightness in her chest, as if she were choking and could not breathe—immediately calling 911 for help, even though she was unsure where her sister could be. Her sister died of affixation.
Flash forward, to 2015, after her sister’s murder; meet Cady, present day. She has never gotten over her sister’s death. The murder has not been solved. Their family has been ripped apart. Her brother David has all sort of issues, from his job, low self-confidence, depression to his failing marriage. Her parents sold their family home and moved to St. Augustine, FL (nice place) to escape their trauma. Their family does not communicate, or discuss Savannah’s death. It was a topic they had all tried to put behind them. Each person has handled their grief in a different way.
Cady, still has dreams—nightmares and feels Savannah is trying to speak to her about her killer. Maybe she is leading her. She sees a prison. She never gives her clear clues—possibly she is trying to help her deal with her death. Cady has never forgiven herself; could she have done something to prevent this from happening?
There was an investigation, and nothing turned up, winding up in cold cases in a basement. No more city money. They tried to blame it on some serial killer; versus looking at people who may be in their own town, looking like a normal person. She had no one to blame—no where to direct her anger.
Cady Martino Bernard, a Princeton graduate, now a successful novelist, of dark mysteries and thrillers as a way to escape her grief—is married to Greg, a psychologist. Instead of letting the memory of her sister, drown her, she would write.
Their marriage has deteriorated to roommate status. After many unsuccessful attempts at trying to conceive, and miscarriages; they have grown further apart. They have nothing in common—he enjoys her money, their nice big home (she does not like), social status, golf, art, culture, imported cheeses, and expensive wines. He does not support her writing. He resents her money; however, enjoys the fruits of her labor. She suspects he is having an affair with his receptionist, and she really does not care. She has her writing and her friends. He stays with her because she is safe. She stays with him because she is fat and feels she cannot do any better.
She now is working on a new novel—with an approaching deadline, she wants to get an inside interview with an inmate at the prison--a killer's head--one of the most evil serial killers to help with her book--she needs a fresh approach.
In the meantime, she has her group of close friends. Each week her best friend Gabby (from high school), David, her brother, Chandler and his gay partner, and their little girl (occasionally)-- They cook, drink wine, play games and a great support network for one another. A weekly ritual. Greg never attends. None of her friends like him, and the feeling is mutual.
Cady is struggling with her fifth book. Devils and Dust and wants to tell her editor to forget it. She does not have it in her. Since the death of her beautiful, sexy sister, she decided to remain fat. This way, the same thing would not happen to her. She has low self-esteem. The dark writing helps. as a means to express her grief.
Long ago--A year after her sister’s death, she no longer wanted to live. Some lunatic was out there who took away her sister. Through her rough years of cutting herself, and trying to commit suicide herself to dull the pain, she finally decided she could not put her parents though another lost child. Could her sister have saved her back then? She has to help her now, find the murderer.
She escapes in her writing. Between the characters in her book and her current life, she has craved being alone, as why she turned down writing groups, and teaching workshops. After many denied requests for prison interviews, she decides to show up and maybe she can get in…possibly Savannah would make a way.
No luck, shut down, "inmates don't give interviews," the warden had hold her. "They're convicts, not movie stars."
As she is leaving the prison, she is on her way back to the car when she meets Brady Irons. A high school hottie, Cady always crushed on back in high school. Sexy James Dean look back then—good-looking and sexy as ever, he is now a corrections officer at the prison. She asks for his help. He seems to be genuine and involved in a lot of tutoring, volunteering, and community work. This may be her answer to getting inside the prison.
Cady believed if she wrote enough, did enough research, interviewed enough perps, and victims, got inside their minds of murderers, went back again and again to that day, she might actually find Savannah’s killer. She would never give up.
Cady cannot believe she has laid eyes on Brady at South Jersey Pen! She cannot wait to tell her friends. He evidently left town years ago and moved back. He is dating someone; however, she is excited about a possible new friend, and a chance to get into the prison and interviewing one of the worst serial killers, Larry Cauchek.
She gets the interview and cannot believe the murderer, looks like a regular good-looking guy on Wall Street. He is manipulative, evil, and chilling. (great job with this character). Could someone like this have been behind the murder of her sister? A devil in disguise? He is getting in side her head.
She begins thinking more and more of Brady and invites him to her weekly dinners. They grow close; however, she feels Brady is hiding something and has a psycho-girlfriend.
In the meantime, between her weekly dinners, her friends, her new attraction to Brady, her novel, her husband (who never gives her quiet time to write), marriage counseling, and the serial killer at the prison haunting her, she is contacted by Patrick, the detective on the case when her sister died. There was some politics involved, and now some of the key players are forced into retirement. Patrick always felt there was more to the case; however, at the time he was told to back off.
Now with the case being re-opened, Cady is actively involved, and returns to storage to give review Savannah’s things, the list of attendees at the funeral, and her high school yearbook. Patrick Tunney thinks the way she was killed, it had to be someone close to her. The murder was in an old abandoned mansion, where a lot of the teens went to party, have sex, and get high. Numerous fingerprints. Why and Who?
Another odd factor, she and her sisters had matching necklaces they had never removed since birth, except to get longer chains as they had gotten older. The chain was missing at her sister’s murder. The killer had it.
Flashing back and forth from past to present, Strecker slowly hands out emotional tidbits of each character, with Cady the center of focus. While thinking about Brady, and becoming close to Patrick, she begins suspecting everyone.
Will she ever be free of the hold of her sister’s death? Will the dreams lead her to what really happened that night so long ago?
With many clues, just when you think you know the identity of the killer, the suspicions moves to another. This is one you do NOT not see coming! A Twist - Wow…. Readers will enjoy the flawed characters, their complex and intense relationships.
A well-written, engrossing, finding your way back from tragedy to second chances. Forgiveness and redemption. What it means to be a survivor, when the person you love has gone. Survivor guilt. The what ifs? The unknowns, which haunt love ones for years.
The structure is brilliant. Slow-burning. Not a fast paced thriller; however, it is more of an intriguing psychological tale, of the way one person’s decision can suddenly recast more than one person’s life. An excellent choice for young adults--Actions, Choices--can lead to deadly consequences carrying over to others, in so many ways.
On a fun note, for fans of FRIENDS and in honor of the upcoming reunion show--readers will enjoy the adult’s witty gathering for the weekly dinners with an array of eccentric characters. An excellent choice for book clubs and further discussions.
If you have not read Strecker’s previous book, Night Blindness - highly recommend, as well as Nowhere Girl. Both books have common themes- emotional choices we make, the sanctity of friendship, and the power of love and forgiveness.