by Stephanie Kuehn
To be published by St. Martin's Press
on June 23, 2014
Source: Thanks to St. Martin's for allowing me to read an advance copy through NetGalley
Synopsis adapted from Goodreads: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.
My take: Eeeeeeep. I just re-read that synopsis and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Full disclosure: I edited the synopsis and kept it on a need-to-know basis, because when you're reading a psychological thrillers the less about the book you know going in the better. In the course of my review, I promise to keep you in the dark as much as possible -- mwah-ha-ha....
If you read Stephanie Kuehn's debut novel, Charm and Strange, you know that she's a talented writer who is a master at creating a creepy and suspenseful mood and keeping readers guessing until the very last page. Like like Charm and Strange, Complicit is narrated by a teenage boy who has some stuff to deal with, for lack of a better explanation. Jamie is still suffering the consequences of his tough childhood. He's since been adopted by a well-off and well-meaning couple whose own children died. Jamie's a shaky, vulnerable mess, barely holding it together and just trying to get through every day. Then he gets the news: his scary sister Cate is baaaaaack.
Jamie was such a sympathetic character -- he struggles so much to control all his fears and anxieties. Anxiety is an exhausting thing, and I really felt his inner struggle. He's like a wobbly little baby bird, trying to fly and then you see this dark shadow looming overhead -- a hungry bird of prey -- ahhhh!!!
That's all I want to say about the plot. In order to preserve suspense, I'll just turn to the general things I love about the book.
I love Stephanie Kuehn's writing. You read the first few sentences of her books and just know that you can relax, that you're in talented and confident hands. She does the whole "teenage guy against the world" POV that I've loved from Holden Caulfield on and does it really, really well.
To me, good suspense writing is all about understatement, and this book is a fantastic example of that. The best writers do the minimum and cleverly get you to scare yourself. As I was reading, I was just wriggling in my chair, not even knowing what to be afraid of -- I just knew that I was scared...
The twists and turns
I did guess some of these, but I wasn't sure if I was right or not, right up until the end.
If you love suspenseful books, books that mess with your mind and make you question what you think is going on, definitely put Complicit on your list!