Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew ‒ and that person is dead.
Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.
I can’t remember why I bought this. Since finishing it, I’ve read that there was a lot of hype about it at the time of its publication, but I don’t remember reading any of that and so, although I obviously heard about it somehow, I read it with an open mind.
And I really enjoyed it. It is very well plotted. It is suspenseful, and although I was expecting twists, I didn’t anticipate them and so I enjoyed coming upon them.
Catherine and Robert have moved home, and shortly afterwards Catherine finds a book that she can’t remember buying. It is not until she has started reading it and noticing bits that remind her of her own past, twenty years ago, that she spots that the disclaimer – “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental” – has been crossed through in red ink. From then, her life starts spiralling out of control. Which is just what Stephen Brigstocke wants to happen.
The story is told from third-person point of view of Catherine, and to a lesser extent Robert and their son Nicholas, and the first-person point of view of Stephen. The perspectives worked really well for the story and were very cleverly crafted, although I couldn’t see quite as well from Robert’s viewpoint as I could from Catherine’s and Stephen’s; Robert is a bit one-dimensional, but maybe this was on purpose. I thought the widowed Stephen’s mental decline was brilliantly depicted. I can’t say I actually liked any of the characters, but I did have empathy – at different points – for most of them.
Eventually the book, The Perfect Stranger, is quoted, but we seem to be given the bulk of the story so I wonder how it could have been a full-length novel. Still, that’s a minor quibble.
There’s a fair bit of social commentary that can be teased from the text, but, really, I enjoyed it just as a suspenseful story.
I will definitely be looking out for Renee Knight’s next book and buying it as soon as it is published.
Editorial Input & Design
Very thorough. I would perhaps have suggested that the last chapter be condensed and we be given just a hint of everyone’s future rather than having it laid out in detail. I don’t like open-ended books, but I think in this case the gist of what happens next would be better so that it ends more punchily.
Cover: Good – well designed.
Internal design: Well laid out. No problems on my Kindle, except one chapter head appears not to have been formatted properly.
Book Clubs & Reviews
A good book club choice. There would be plenty to discuss: bereavement, secrets, mental health, repressed memory, dementia, rewriting history, seeing the same event from different viewpoints, revenge, not seeing (or not admitting) flaws in those we love, sensitivity for the feelings of others.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.2 stars (107 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it five stars (2 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 3.92 stars (249 ratings).
Buy & Author
hive.co.uk (hardback £10.03; ePub £8.99)
Kenny’s, Ireland (paperback €13.79 free shipping)
Amazon (Kindle £6.02/$5.96; hardback £7.00/$14.40)
Follow the author:
I can’t find Renée Knight online. I’ll update this if I do find her.
Links of interest:
Telegraph Interview with the author