TITLE: The Woman in the Dark | AUTHOR: Vanessa Savage | PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing | PUBLISHED ON: March 12, 2019 | PAGES: 346| RATING: 3 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Publisher |
TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic Violence, Rape
I really, really wanted to love this book. Great cover, good premise, on the surface it sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately it rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning, and while it did win me back slightly before the end, it never fully climbed back into my good graces.
This has a lot to do with my personal reading tastes. I hate, HATE, the trope of the traumatized and therefore hysterical woman who no one believes due to her trauma. It’s a weirdly popular trope in thrillers (especially thrillers written by women it seems) and clearly other readers are into it since some of the most popular thrillers in recent years have employed it, but I don’t like it. It feels like a cheap way to remove a character’s agency. This book does take it in a different direction than most other books I’ve read, and I can definitely appreciate that, but its use still got my hackles up right from the start.
I also found the characters as a whole to be rather shallow. The reader is offered glimpses into Sarah’s past, but never enough to make her complete breakdown believable for me. Her relationship with Patrick was the same, it felt extremely surface level which made it difficult to fully invest. Mia especially suffered here, she has essentially no personality outside of “angry teenaged daddy’s girl.” What made this all the more frustrating though was the fact that Joe is actually quite well written and fleshed out; he has a past and clear feelings and interests, and I found my heart breaking for him as I read. But this really showcased the shallowness of the other characters in comparison.
There were, however, a few elements of this book that worked very, very well. The sinister nature of the Murder House was a big winner for me. I found myself truly questioning whether there was something supernatural happening here, and I love a book that makes me doubt what’s taking place. The mystery itself, while not perfect and a little predictable towards the end, was also extremely compelling and kept me turning pages. The author did an excellent job of weaving the mystery together with the more domestic thriller elements. The prose itself here is also fantastic, and I loved the imagery the author paints for the reader. That was definitely the strongest point of this novel in my opinion.
Even though I never felt entirely immersed in the story, it did hold my attention and I was eager to see how things would end. For the author’s debut, I think she did a fantastic job of using evocative, attention-grabbing language. With a bit more depth to the characters, this could have been a slam dunk of a novel. As it stands, it was a mostly enjoyable read with a few stumbling blocks, and I would definitely be open to checking out the author’s future works.