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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller

While All is Not Forgotten wasn’t her debut, it was the book that made the world take notice of Wendy Walker. Though I only posted a mini review, rest assured I was just as captivated as the rest of its readers and was beyond excited when her follow-up, the MASSIVELY buzzed-about Emma in the Night arrived at my door!

Cass and Emma didn’t have the greatest upbringing. While their father was loving and doting, their mother’s narcissistic tendencies took center stage and the divorce was particularly nasty. Now living with their mother, stepfather, and stepbrother, Cass and Emma are in a constant game of one-upmanship and barbed, snide remarks.

The night they disappeared, their mother became the one thing she always wanted: a victim. With the world looking on, she positively shined as the wounded, grieving mother who just wanted her beloved daughters, her two babies, home again in her arms. Three years later, one did return home. Cass returned, telling a horrific tale of a kidnapping, three long years spent on an isolated island, her one chance at escape…and the desperate need to go back and save her sister.

Much like All is Not Forgotten, Emma in the Night features two narrators (you know me, the more the merrier!) In alternating chapters, Cass’s tale slowly unfolds while Dr. Abby Winter, a forensic psychiatrist who worked on the missing persons case three years ago, starts to realize that details aren’t quite adding up and in writing this review I discovered just how hard this book is to discuss without spoiling anything!! And trust me, you DO NOT want to be spoiled, so please bear with me while I’m being super vague!

With a childhood as toxic as the one Cass and Emma had, could the girls have simply had enough and run away? Their mother only sought custody to ‘win.’ Her needling comments started early, moving on to seeking validation in her parenting skills, ultimately turning far more devious once the girls – namely Emma – became older. There was no hiding it: Emma was beautiful and their mother…she was still beautiful, but getting older, no longer the 20-year-old she once was. There’s one scene where Cass and Emma find their mother having sex with Emma and Cass’s stepbrother – it’s so hard to truly describe how utterly toxic that home was. Hunter and Emma were in a constant battle and any attention on Emma took the focus off their mother, something she refused to tolerate and eventually took matters into her own hands.

Cass’s story of what happened the night they disappeared and where they lived the following three years was absolutely riveting and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! I wanted to know more about this couple who took them in, gave them a place to stay when they needed it, only to reveal their true nature shortly after. Again, spoilers, but I loved Cass’s chapters and couldn’t look away. As much as I loved her tale, however, it’s when Dr. Winter sees the cracks in Cass’s story that Emma in the Night really ramps up and I was torn between needing to know more immediately and wanted to savor the story, slowly piece it all together. Let’s just say that the ending…I wasn’t expecting it at all.

While I’m still working out my feelings for the Big Reveal, I can’t deny that Emma in the Night was a wildly engrossing read and excellent follow-up to last year’s hugely popular All is Not Forgotten. I was completely invested in the story, turning the pages at a blinding pace just to know more about these girls and what really happened the three years they were gone. I have no doubt in my mind that this book will be one of the books to read this year and I can’t wait to see what Wendy Walker does next!

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