Amanda O’Toole is dead. The attacker bashed in her head and surgically removed four of her fingers. Shortly before she was murdered, Amanda had fought with her neighbor, Dr. Jennifer White, a retired orthopedic surgeon. Jennifer is probably guilty as sin, but the police don’t have the proof they need, and the suspect refuses to confess.
Jennifer is not being uncooperative on purpose. She can’t confess because she can’t remember if she committed the crime or not. Most days she can’t remember that her friend Amanda has even died in the first place. Jennifer is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Jennifer is the very definition of the unreliable narrator. Her fractured version of reality offers only meager clues about the events surrounding Amanda’s death. We must instead rely on Jennifer’s son, daughter, and caretaker, but they are hiding their own secrets, and they are in no hurry to aid the police in the murder investigation.
Alice LaPlante’s debut is a very strange thriller. The crime is committed before the story opens, and no one is worried about the murderer striking again, yet the atmosphere crackles with nervous tension. The book is a page-turner, but each turn of the page accelerates Jennifer’s unraveling, making it less and less likely that we’ll ever learn what really happened. But even though LaPlante rejects most of the conventions of the thriller genre, she still writes a harrowing story. It is scary, not for the crime, but for the horrible, painfully realistic treatment of Alzheimer’s.
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