Following good stories wherever they lead
I’d like to introduce you to our protagonist, but she doesn’t know her own name.
Or why she’s walking down a gravel road, barefoot and battered, in an area she doesn’t recognize. The policeman who pulls up beside her is concerned: Why is she out here all alone? Is she hurt? Is she in danger?
So we enter a story of gaps and omissions, frustrating blanks that Sam — once she learns her name — has to try to fill in. She returns to a home she doesn’t recognize, to parents who are strangers, to a brother who greets her warily and a boyfriend who looks too perfect to be true.
No one knows why she disappeared, and what’s happened to make her lose her memory. They just tell her that she went off with her best friend, Cassie, for reasons unknown late one night.
And that’s a problem. Because Cassie hasn’t come back.
The police have questions. Sam’s family has questions. And in the middle of it all, the notes start to appear.
Words of warning. Words of threat. Don’t look back. You won’t like what you find.
This was a good little mystery, but maybe not for the reasons you’d expect. What you’ll get caught up in is Sam’s own investigation of herself — because, we soon discover, Sam-Before was a holy, ruling bitch.
So what happens when you wake up one morning and discover not only are you suddenly inhabiting some stranger’s life — but that person was cruel, manipulative, feared, and hated?
Sam’s interactions with her friends and family are the most interesting part of this story, as she struggles to reconcile the girl that everyone knew and the person she is now — minus memories, plus nightmares. Chasing ghosts, and the threads of a friendship that looks more toxic the more she learns, it’s a slide into the darker side of female bonds and competition.
There’s elements of romance, too. Not with Del, Sam’s former (current?) boyfriend — but Carson, a wry, handsome boy who apparently knew Sam growing up. And who, according to others and Carson himself, Sam treated with utter disdain, once she hit the popular crowd. So why does he make her so flustered when he gets close? And why doesn’t she feel the same way with Del?
The pacing was tight, and the descriptions were good, so this was a fun read. The caveat I’ll offer is that this is a mystery/whodunit story by someone who doesn’t specialize in those — and it shows. Not enough to detract from the story, but this is not on the same level as a Tana French or a Gillian Flynn for me. Those women are masters of the craft.
If you want a skim across the darker waters of identity, jealousy, and rage — with a steamy romance on the side — then take a walk with Sam.
She’ll take you back into the woods to see what you can find.