Two girls go missing. Three years later, only one comes home. What happened to Emma?
One night, teenage sisters Cass and Emma disappear from their affluent, suburban home. Three years later, with just the clothes on her back and no evidence of where she’s been, Cass returns – without her sister. She talks of kidnapping and isolation, and a mysterious island where the two were held. But her story has holes – and it’s up to forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter to find the missing sister, Emma, and uncover what really happened in their tortured past. The truth will shock even Cass herself – a tale of fear, family and what it will take to survive her own past.
Emma and Cass have a strange relationship with their mother. For starters, they are required to call her Mrs. Martin, not mom. WHAT? That will get your suspicious mind working overtime to get to the bottom of this story. Mrs. Martin is a narcissistic, self-involved mother and she’s not the only one in this dysfunctional family that has some psychological issues. The two sisters have an overprotective half-brother, a weepy-wimpy father, an out-of-control stepbrother and a stepfather that continually crosses personal boundaries within the family. WHEW! I’d run the hell away from that house too!
When Cass returns home from being missing for three years, she is alone. What happened to Emma? The FBI are all over the case and continue to grill Cass with a forensic psychologist, Abby, leading the interviews. The entire story is told in alternating views: a first person narrative coming from Cass and a third person narrative from Abby. Coincidentally, Abby the expert, grew up with a sister, too, and their own mother was a textbook narcissist. She knows firsthand what Cass and Emma may have been dealing with at home.
This is not as much of a suspense story as it is a overly long definition of the narcissistic personality type. I learned a bit more than I ever thought I would about the disorder. For starters, the disorder has been overlooked by the courts and by society when it is a woman suffering from it. And especially overlooked when that woman is a mother.
Normally I love psychological suspense. But, if I want to study a disorder, I will pick up my old psychology textbook. Please, SHOW me the actions and develop her character into a more layered person. Showing is so much more exciting to read in a fictional story than telling. A book that comes to mind for expertly illustrating a maternal narcissist in action is MOTHER, MOTHER by Karen Zalickas. A biting and disturbing character if ever there was one.
This book has all my favorite elements in a mystery. A BEAUTIFUL, INTRIGUING COVER, the semi-surprise ending, unreliable narrators, and a psychological disorder at the heart of the story. As much as I wanted to love it, the book fell flat for me. The pages did not turn fast. My mind was wandering during the long descriptions of the island that Cass gives the FBI upon her return home. She relates her experiences in a straight monotone manner (for a reason, as you will find out) and it just reads that way for most of the book. I was interested to find out what happened to Emma, but my gosh, it was a slow go.
AMAZON link Emma in the Night: A Novel