In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.
Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected. (Goodreads)
The book opens with Quinn suffering the morning after feeling and feeling sorry for herself in the two bedroom flat that she shares with Esther. Bleary eyed and full of a hangover, Quinn assumes that Esther has gone to work or out shopping somewhere, until she finds a mysterious typed note addressed to ‘My dearest’ and signed ‘EV’, presumably from Esther Vaughan. With Esther having made no previous reference to a boyfriend, Quinn grows worried, with the feeling intensifying as more time passes. When Esther doesn’t return home for the duration of the weekend, Quinn calls the police and files a report, but there is little they can do when the missing person is an adult.
Knowing that something isn’t right, Quinn enlists the help of their mutual friend Ben to help discover the truth, beginning to question everything she thought she knew about Esther. Was Esther even her friend in the first place? And what really happened to her previous roommate? Starting to feel increasingly paranoid, Quinn sees danger at every turn and thinks that Esther could be following her, becoming frightened of the outside world and letting her overactive imagination play tricks on her. Should she continue trying to solve the mystery or is Esther best left alone?
Alternately, we have the perspective of Alex, a young man who is struggling to make ends meet and caring for his alcoholic father, who drinks away whatever money he earns. Slaving away for minimum wage in a café, Alex has recently been intrigued by a young woman he refers to as Pearl, seeing her emerge from the psychologist’s across the street and then again on the beach. She has a unique beauty but Alex is too shy to talk to her, intent to observe from afar and wondering what her life is like. When she inevitably does take notice of him, his life is turned upside down and he is dragged into something so much bigger.
I had my inclinations from the beginning of how Alex and Quinn’s perspectives would intertwine, but I was not expecting there to be as much drama as we are treated to in the final few chapters. It seems almost bazaar in places with all the hidden connections, yet still somewhat plausible that the mystery could escalate to that scale. Esther is the enigma in this book as we only know what other people tell us about her and are guided by their suspicions or misgivings. We don’t know if she is the innocent soul Quinn first paints her to be or the destructive and even murderous witch that she becomes in Quinn’s imagination. It was nice to be kept in the dark to make up your own mind, as this did enhance the tension.
Quinn, however, is quite a difficult character to get your head around as she becomes more neurotic about Esther and what every little thing could mean. She is slightly unstable and lives for the moment, having brought back a string of men to the apartment for one night stands. Up until now she never appreciated Esther and was content to do her own thing, but this has been a wake up call to stop being so self involved. She definitely wasn’t my favourite protagonist, but I think it wasn’t helped by her pining attraction to Ben, who she really wants but who has a steady girlfriend. I was under the impression that she’d be happy to steal him away regardless of who got hurt and found it hard to sympathise with her.
I liked Alex a lot more but did find him to be whiny about his situation, which doesn’t exactly produce the required emotional response. He clearly has mummy issues and frequently refers to the fact that she walked out on him when he was a child and has never contacted him since. I think the obvious point here is that he feels abandonment, and that he is desperate to belong somewhere. He has never had a proper relationship, so when Pearl takes a shine to him he is eager to impress her and fails to question her oddities. This makes him somewhat naïve but understandably so, and it is easy to feel sorry for the life he has led up to now and the subsequent decisions he makes.
Admittedly I had my problems with both protagonists, but I still found myself drawn into the plot to find Esther and to discover more about the mysterious Pearl. The ending surprised me and I wasn’t expecting there to be such a big revelation to close the book. The plots connect well with everything being tied up neatly and not leaving any unanswered questions, which can often be frustrating in the more complex thrillers. I think this book is worth a read and offers a slightly bazaar take in places that you will either love for its ingenuity or hate for being unrealistic.
A slightly different thriller with several twists and turns, this book takes alternating perspectives and then draws them together for a fast-paced conclusion. There are several mysteries to keep you hooked and more than a few red herrings along the way, leaving you wondering what really happened to Esther Vaughan and what secrets are lurking in her closet. The perspectives contrast well, as you follow two seemingly separate stories until they conjoin, making this book an intriguing read, even if some plot points are a little more bazaar.