Stacy Willingham’s debut A Flicker in the Dark was a huge hit last year. And while I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t my favorite simply because I found it predictable. Even with that I was excited to receive an advanced copy of her upcoming release All the Dangerous Things.
Isabelle Drake’s son, Mason, was taken in the middle of the night, almost exactly a year ago. It’s also been a year since she’s truly slept, instead surviving on ‘micronaps’ in an attempt to ‘be awake’ when Mason comes home. Spending her days searching for who took her son, Isabelle, is determined to understand what happened to her son. On her way back from her keynote at a True Crime conference, she runs into Podcaster Waylon Spencer. Waylon has followed Isabelle’s story and wants to help share it, in an attempt to uncover new clues. As Isabelle’s insomnia continues and as Waylon starts asking more questions than she wants to answer, Isabelle suddenly finds herself relieving a childhood trauma that has followed her all her life. Now doubting not just if the podcast was a good idea, but whether she can trust herself, Isabelle starts to realized she can’t trust anyone, especially herself.
****Fair warning this book has quite a few trigger warnings. If you are sensitive to stories about child abduction, post partum depression, child lose, mental health, and suicide, I’d pass over this one. ****
Told completely from Isabelle’s POV, this dual timeline story follows Isabelle both as an adult and a child. The first timeline is present day, as she searches for answers about her son. The second is her remembering events from July 1994, when she was a child. The events of that summer have shaped Isabelle’s life, and combined with her now missing son, make her doubt her own memories. The back and forth between the two was balanced perfectly and I felt definitely added to the story. However, book is 100% a slow burn and I spent the first 40% of the story waiting for something, anything to actually happen and to get the story rolling. Willingham took quite a bit of time to set the stage for the plot, and while I now understand that it was an attempt to portray the ‘weight’ of motherhood, I was impatient to get more into the plot as I was reading.
I truly felt a connection with a lot of Isabelle’s thoughts. As someone who has a 9month old and is new to motherhood, many of her concerns and worries are things I’ve personally been dealing with. Before I went back from work after maternity, I struggled with the loss of my singular identity and really needed time to come to terms with my ‘new normal’. For me going back to work saved me. I’m a much better mother as a working mom. Not only does it allow me to exercise my mental capacity but it also allows me to keep my own sense of self. I don’t know that I would have connected with this story as much prior to becoming a mom and while I didn’t agree with everything Isabelle did/thought, I could certainly see how sleep deprivation played into her actions. I did also really appreciate Willingham’s Author’s Note at the end of the book. While it could be a spoiler for the actual story, I felt that it gave a good view into why she decided to go down the route she did with this story. Willingham says you should NOT read the note prior to reading the story, but I don’t feel that it gives anything away plot wise, and if you’re hesitate to read this book feel free to read that note frist. That’s my own opinion, so take it as you will.
Diving into the mental toll motherhood takes, All the Dangerous Things is a much deeper story than A Flicker in the Dark. Willingham’s writing is vivid, and the style of writing and the pacing is very similar to her first book. While a bit on the slow side for me, if you enjoyed her debut writing, you’ll really enjoy this thriller.
All the Dangerous Things comes out January 10, 2023! Huge thank you to Delacorte Press for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.