Release date: September 15, 2020
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: Don’t Look for Me was written by Wendy Walker and is set to be released on September 15, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press. It’s a mystery/thriller novel, which is Walker’s specialty; her previous psychological suspense novels have hit international bestseller lists. The tagline reads, “The greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time.”
PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: It’s been exactly one year since Molly lost her 9-year-old daughter Annie in a tragic accident – one where Molly had been behind the wheel. Her life has fallen apart in multiple ways – her son is away at boarding school, her oldest daughter seems to hate her guts and is in the throes of her own downward spiral, and her husband barely acknowledges her existence.
Just as she thinks it can’t get any worse, she finds herself out of gas…in the middle of nowhere…at night…in the midst of a category four hurricane. The darkness brewing inside of her threatens to combust when faced with the darkness surrounding her, and she briefly considers starting a new life…but then headlights appear in her path, and she flags the vehicle down, relieved to have found safety after all. Or so she thought.
However, this fact doesn’t deter from the addictiveness of the unfolding plot, which continually brings in new residents of the small town with their own intriguing secrets and unique potential reasons to break the law.”
Two weeks later, Nicole is awoken by a phone call after yet another night of drinking and strange men. The woman on the other end of the line tells her that she saw Nicole’s mother on the night of the hurricane…the night she disappeared without a trace. She gives Nicole details that weren’t released to the public, and that only someone who had actually seen Molly would know…and Nicole decides to take the stalled police investigation into her own hands. She packs her bags and heads to Hastings, the small town where her mother was last seen, vowing not to return home without Molly.
Nicole’s desperation to find out what has happened to her mother, and her mother’s own battle for her life, sets off a series of events and confrontations that reveal explosive twists and some seriously devious minds. What follows is a story of small-town secrets, corruption, captivity, poverty, abuse, and murder…and not everyone involved will make it out alive.
MY THOUGHTS: This was my first novel by Walker, although after reading it, I can safely say I will likely read her future books as well.
This is your basic psychological suspense novel, written from two different points of view – Molly’s and Nicole’s – in alternating chapters that take us backwards and forwards in time. We see Molly’s dilemma starting from the very beginning of her terrifying journey, up through the point where her and Nicole’s timelines merge days later; Nicole’s story in Chapter 2 starts on day 14, two weeks after her mom’s disappearance.
I enjoy a novel told from two points of view, especially with this type of storyline – and Walker makes it an easy transition from one point of view to the next, keeping some chapters incredibly short as the tension ratchets up. There are some twists and turns in the novel, although not necessarily ones that could go unpredicted, mind you (unlike in Alice Feeney’s roller-coaster His & Hers). This isn’t a surprise, considering the limited pool of guesses as to who Molly’s kidnapper could be in such a small town. However, this fact doesn’t deter from the addictiveness of the unfolding plot, which continually brings in new residents with their own intriguing secrets and unique potential reasons to break the law.
Walker is here to tell us that, in our darkest hour, we must actively choose survival and life over death every day.”
At its core, I think Don’t Look for Me is a darkly-told but heartbreaking view of the reality of living with the loss of a child, especially when you were responsible – even though it was an accident. We see the various ways people would cope with this type of immense loss: Molly longs to run away at the beginning of her story. She feels incredibly unloved and unwanted – and she’s not wrong. Her own husband spends nights away from her and turns her own name into a way of belittling her when she experiences anxiety; he seems to throw himself into his work and away from his family. Nicole, who was just a teenager herself and witnessed the horror, feels responsible herself and lashes out both at Molly and her own life. She turns this loss – the “empty hollow spaces” that take over her life – into alcoholism and promiscuity, just searching for any numbing relief for the pain and loss of feeling.
These destructive coping mechanisms for grief could be the permanent undoing of relationships and someone’s quality of life, which Walker doesn’t shy away from in this novel. We can see the future for these people, and if things don’t change, it would be bleak. Don’t get me wrong; this novel is still a quick-read mystery/thriller at heart – and not the deep or overly “hopeful” and upbeat storyline of a general fiction novel. But Walker is here to tell us that, in our darkest hour, we must actively choose survival and life over death every day. Even if we’re wallowing in grief and loss so immense we can’t see the light for the darkness, there is still something worth fighting for, and Walker shows us what that is as we watch Molly and Nicole’s story unfold.