By Riley Sager
Wow, this one sure took a turn. I thought it was one kind of book, and then it turned into another!
It is a dual-timeline story. In the “Before”, We meet Casey who is staying by herself in her family cottage on Lake Greene in Vermont. She is a well-known stage actress, who is recovering from the tragic drowning death of her beloved husband, a successful screenwriter, which took place at the same lake. She was fired from her last gig because of her drunken behavior and the ensuing bad press. She had been in despair since her husband died and has continued with her heavy drinking. The lake is very secluded, and her only neighbors are few. There is the newcomer Boone, an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic whose own wife died a while back. Directly across the lake are the Royces, who live in a modern house with lots of windows. He is a successful tech entrepreneur and she is a famous model. Next door to them is 70-year-old Eli, a longtime resident and family friend. He is the one who keeps her in alcohol (why?). Casey spends her days on her deck with a pair of binoculars surveying the lake, watching the doings of the Royces across the water, and drinking to excess. She really likes Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. One day, she sees someone struggling in the water, rows out, and ends up saving Katherine Royce’s life. They become friendly. The more she gets to know Katherine and the more she guiltily continues to spy on them with her binoculars, the more concerned she gets for her friend’s well-being. Then one day, Katherine disappears. Meanwhile, she has gotten to know Boone, who has reason to have the same concerns about Katherine’s welfare. They team up together to investigate and hopefully find Katherine, or at least find out what happened to her.
Interspersed are the “Now” sections, in which it becomes clear that Casey has someone secretly imprisoned and tied down in one of her upstairs bedrooms and is trying to force them into revealing what became of her friend. Sometime between “Before” and “Now”, the police have become involved.
Right about in the middle of this book, I thought I had the twist figured out. Since I was so smart, my sense of urgency to turn the pages faded a bit. It was still a very well-written book, and there were still other mysteries to uncover, so I continued with it happily. I was invested in the fates of Katherine and Casey, despite Casey’s constant drunkenness, which got on my nerves. I feel there were way too many references to her struggles with alcohol. Especially when Katherine’s fate, if she wasn’t already dead, may have depended on Casey’s ability to think and function. She was consuming so much booze that I honestly didn’t see how she could get out of bed every day. She was so committed to helping Katherine (if it wasn’t too late,) that her prioritizing drinking over even trying to remain lucid didn’t make sense and was frustrating. I felt this aspect of Casey really wasn’t even necessary and has become a cliche for the genre, so it brought the book down a bit for me.
I had one small sliver of the twist correct, but nothing could have prepared me for the full truth of what was going on with the Royces, and unnamed others. After the first twist, the shocks continue to come thick and fast. Some were so incredible, that I had to look back and review to make sure the author had played fair and didn’t lie to us. But he did play fair. I could see no plot holes. I did have a few questions at the end, but the author did a great job of tying everything together. So great that I was willing to ignore some aspects.
This book is a wild ride, and part of Sager’s talent is getting the reader, me anyway, to be willing to jump on the crazy train and hang on.