Review: The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman

Carol Goodman is an author after my Gothic heart. I haven’t read any of her other books before this one, but when this one came up for review I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it because it had this decidedly Gothic feel. Not to mention a lot of fans have called her the modern day Daphne du Maurier. I love books with a Gothic feel, especially murder mysteries so I was super excited to read this one.

Goodman has written other novels that by all accounts are atmospheric and moody so I was really looking forward to this one. I also loved that it had a modern component with the #MeToo plot line. I think a lot of readers will find relevance in the plot as the #MeToo movement has been a big news headline in recent years so that was one of the things that really excited me about this book.

The only thing I was a little skeptical about was the history piece. After reading the summary it sounded like it had a lot going on—-a mystery, a #MeToo aspect, and a historical part but I wasn’t sure if it had a modern plot or not so that was a little confusing, but I was excited to see how the Gothic atmosphere was deployed in this one and ultimately that’s what drove my desire to read this one.

Summary

In the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Michelle Richmond, and Shari Lapena, comes the newest mystery thriller from Edgar Award–winning, bestselling author Carol Goodmana twisty, chilling story set in a former Magdalen Laundry in Manhattan that explores today’s #MeToo complexities.

It’s taken Joan Lurie three years to write her article exposing a famous newspaper tycoon as a sexual predator. On the eve of its publication, she celebrates at a party thrown in her honor and is riding high…only to be brutally attacked as she is returning home late that night. Traumatized and suffering the effects of a concussion, she moves to a highly secure new apartment building in northern Manhattan called the Refuge. Safely sequestered away, she tries to begin writing a book that expands her much-lauded exposé.

At the Refuge, Joan encounters a frail 96-year-old woman who has been living in the building since the 1940s when it was a Magdalen Laundry and Refuge for Fallen Women. When Lillian first arrived, she was hiding out from the infamous Murder, Inc mobsters. As Lillian relates her story about the long-ago incriminating incident she witnessed that forced her into hiding, Joan recalls certain details of her own investigation.

The more Joan learns about Lillian and the fabled story of the Refuge, the more she realizes they may be linked to the book she is writing—and to her attacker that fateful night. As Joan starts to connect the clues and unravel decades worth of history, she must stay one step ahead of those who are desperate to make sure Joan never uncovers the final truth. (summary from Goodreads)

Review

This one landed in the middle for me. On one hand, I liked the atmosphere and it had a great Gothic feel. I loved how Goodman describes everything and the narrator is unreliable which I love. While reading the book I felt really off balance and questioning Joan as a narrator throughout the novel which was wonderful. I loved how well written the mystery was and how great the descriptions were but there was also something a little confusing that went beyond the general hallmarks of the unreliable narrator.

I think what put me off to this one at times was the story within a story and A LOT going on in the plot. I don’t necessarily think it’s a ‘bad thing’ that there was a lot going on, but I think that readers need to pay attention to the plot. This isn’t a book you can breeze through and expect to grasp everything. There were also times when I felt like I needed time to catch up to the story because things were coming fast plus there were a lot of twists in this one—-so let’s just say it kept me on my toes and at times exhausted me which is why I ended up going with 3 stars for this one.

The characters in this one were very complex and I think readers will enjoy dissecting their characters and motives throughout the story and the historic mystery part of this one was interesting especially for someone who enjoys historical fiction like me. I did like that part but overall I felt like the larger narrative was a little too busy and could have been paired down a bit to make for a more straight forward read. While I might not have loved this one in the way that I had hoped, I did love the Gothic elements and atmosphere of the book and that alone makes me want to read more books by Goodman!

Book Info and Rating

Format 336 pages, Paperback

PublishedJuly 6, 2021 by William Morrow Paperbacks

ISBN9780063020665 (ISBN10: 0063020661)

Free review copy provided by publisher, William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: suspense, mystery, thriller, Gothic

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