Emma in the Night

Cass Tanner and her older sister, Emma, disappeared three years ago. Emma's car and belongings were found at the beach, long thought to be evidence she drowned or committed suicide. Of 15-year-old Cass, there was no sign; she simply vanished. Now Cass has returned, knocking on her mother's door out of the blue. Alone.

Wendy Walker's Emma in the Night is a storytelling mind-meld that takes place over the seven days after Cass comes home. The narrator, she admits her story is a deception. By using Cass to recount the story of the girls' purported disappearance and captivity to their family and the authorities, Walker amplifies the potential misdirection.

There is no doubt Cass has a plan she's not revealing. Her mysterious game relies on the reactions of others, particularly her mother, a pathologic narcissist, and forensic psychiatrist Abby Winter, who also suffered under the reign of a narcissistic parent. Dr. Winter's insights make her the one person who may be able to suss out Cass's true purpose and discover what became of Emma.

Walker (All Is Not Forgotten) has developed empathetic characters to root for and villains to loathe in a blended family fated by dysfunction. The layered narrative creates a difficult balance that Walker handles skillfully to minimize confusion. Dr. Winter comes across as more of a storytelling tool than a character to embrace, but the story she enhances is a fascinating portrait of the narcissistic pathology dynamic and what's left in its wake. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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