Chloe Davis has spent her whole life trying to fix herself, and now as a 32 year old psychologist she helps others to fix themselves. While she’s tells herself she’s doing better these days, her family’s past is never far from her mind. Twenty years ago, her father kidnapped and killed six girls in their small town. With the twentieth anniversary coming up, Chloe can’t help but feel history repeating itself as girls in her now hometown of Baton Rouge are starting to disappear. As the disappearances continue, Chloe finds herself caught in the middle of the investigation and questioning not just every person in her life, but also her own memory and motives.
I’m a HUGE Karen Slaughter Fan, Pretty Girls will always be one of my favorite books. So when I saw that Karen Slaughter did a blurb about this book, and some reviewers were comparing it to her writing, I knew this is something I would love.
& I did, just not as much as a KS book.
Chloe is your typical unreliable narrator and can honestly be quite hard to like. She often has difficulty determining what’s fiction and what’s real. Mix that with her tendency to self medicate, her paranoia, and you’re got the perfect recipe for an unreliable narrator. Due to these this combination and the events of her childhood, it’s not really hard to imagine how she would immediately think the new kidnappings in Baton Rouge are meant to get her attention. She’s easily seen as someone to not take serious, especially by the cops, so of course what does she do? She decides to investigate on her own, which only gets her into more trouble.
From a prose perspective, Willingham does a fabulous job of setting the stage and engaging the reader. Her writing style is flawless, easy to read, and the flashbacks to Chloe’s childhood really added to the story. For the characters, while they’re written well, they fall into the usual stereotypes and outside of Chloe’s character we don’t really get to know anyone else to deeply. I don’t particularly like Chloe either, and while the events seems to change her circumstances, I didn’t feel her grow much throughout the story.
My two biggest negatives which brought this down from a four start read were the number of red herrings and the ending. Red herrings are great for masking the culprit or the ending but throw too many in the mix and they start to feel a bit stale. Once again they’re great for throwing you off the scent but I guessed the ending so early on, that they felt more forced than anything. In addition, certain events and plot points were entirely non-believable. I mean what pharmacy doesn’t ask to see your ID? My husband has to take my ID with him to pick up my prescriptions, but maybe that’s just where we live. What I’m getting at is, just be prepared to suspend believe in certain areas.
I really did enjoy this story and it’s a page turner. It’s just not something I would read again nor did it seem very original to me. I’m a little over the unreliable women narrators that come off a tad crazy. Maybe I read too many thrillers, which is totally possible, but I’d like for once for our ‘crazy protagonist’ to be male.
If you’re looking for a page turner than you’ll enjoy this book, and for a debut I think it’s good. I’d read another of Willingham’s books as she seems to have a promising writing career ahead of her.
A Flicker in the Dark comes out December 7, 2021. Huge thank you to Minotaur Books and St. Martin’s Press for my copy in exchange for my honest review. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my Instagram @speakingof_books.
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