Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Ant. Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Synopsis (via GoodReads):
In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
I received a free e-galley of this book from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Follow-ups are never easy; sequels often require even more intrigue and uniqueness than originals ever do, but Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger delivers all you ordered and more.
Miranda’s debut adult thriller All The Missing Girls, released in July 2016, offered audiences a suspenseful, innovative look into not one, but two haunting disappearances in small town Cooley Ridge, occurring ten years apart. Written in reverse order of the later disappearance, starting with Day 15 and spanning back to Day 1, this novel provided all of the “oomph” necessary to bring Miranda’s name to the top of best-seller lists.
Less than a year later, The Perfect Stranger brings to life another eerie mystery that successfully adds to Miranda’s status as an exhilarating storyteller, with gripping tales to tell.
Though the synopsis reveals that the book’s focus is on solving the mystery of Leah’s peculiar roommate, Emmy, that isn’t the book’s only plot line. As the story unravels, audiences become familiar not only with Emmy and what she’s left behind, but also protagonist Leah’s identity and what’s led her to move in with an old friend in a small, rural Pennsylvania town.
This is definitely one of Miranda’s strengths—duality. In All the Missing Girls, we are handed two parallel disappearances, which happen at different times, but in The Perfect Stranger we are given two women whose seemingly different lives become intertwined by an unexpected reunion. However, what happened? is not the big question now, but rather, who is this woman that I thought I knew?
By utilizing this plot duality, the novel thickens into a complicated web of confusion, as any good mystery should.
Another great quality of Miranda’s second adult novel is the depth with which she develops her mystery and characters. Key players in the novel are not limited to Emmy and Leah—each and every character introduced plays a vital role to the story as whole. Every complex question raised at the start of the novel finds an answer by the end—however, the process to get there is just as complex as the questions themselves.
Miranda is a master of creating active characters. Characters, like Leah, take hold of their opportunity to determine their own destiny and do not merely sit on the sidelines waiting for others to find solutions. Often her characters with strong-willed nature will even stand in opposition to those who claim they’re trying to help solve the problem, and this stubbornness is admirable, though not always favorable.
One area in which I think Miranda struggled was plot progression and timing of the “big reveal”. The answers that audiences have yearned for since page 1 are all grouped together in what seemed to be a few chapters at the novel’s very end. The exposition and rising action of the story progress were far too long—I found myself questioning about halfway through the novel why I hadn’t uncovered any hint as to where the story was going.
This slow-moving plot development throughout the novel’s first half is where Miranda missed the mark for me a little bit. Had the book’s pace been sped-up a tiny bit, or had the plot opted to share smaller pieces of the resolution earlier on (rather than choosing a series of bigger reveals in its final moments), this novel would have gotten 5 out of 5 stars from me.
The Perfect Stranger will have you flipping pages incessantly, delivering an unpredictable, enthralling, binge-read-worthy thriller, which further demonstrates Miranda’s wide-ranging authorial talent.