Day 83: Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook
Summary From Goodreads:
Eric Moore has a prosperous business, a comfortable home, a stable family life in a quiet town. Then, on an ordinary night, his teenage son Keith babysits Amy Giordano, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighboring family. The next morning Amy is missing, and Eric isn’t sure his son is innocent.
In his desperate attempt to hold his family together by proving his-and the community’s-suspicions wrong, Eric finds himself in a vortex of doubt and broken trust. What should he make of Keith’s strange behavior? Of his wife’s furtive phone calls to a colleague? Of his brother’s hints that he knows things he’s afraid to say?
In a “heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching” (New York Daily News) race against time and mistrust, Eric must discover what has happened to Amy Giordano and face the long-buried family secrets he has so carefully ignored.
I found Red Leaves at a big Half Price Books sale in the cities, the cover stood out from the rest and the summary drew me in as a potentially gripping thriller/mystery. I wasn’t disappointed!
One of the most fascinating parts of Red Leaves was the developing psychosis of the main character Eric. As he learns more about the situation his family, and more specifically Keith, has been caught up in he becomes increasingly suspicious about everything and everyone. This is further intensified by him learning details about his family that he had managed to ignore or refuse to see when he was younger, it causes him to start questioning everything he though he knew about his life and what his family is capable of. He doesn’t trust his brother, his wife, his father and he especially does not trust his son. The further he sinks into this constant skepticism the more paranoid he becomes, creating scenarios where there are none and making details out of the past that never existed. Red Leaves shows how when the cracks start to show in the foundation how easy it truly is for everything to fall apart.
The writing style choice by Cook was very risky in my mind but it worked after I got over the initial surprise. When I began the book I couldn’t quite pinpoint what felt so off, but after a few pages it dawned on me, Red Leaves is written in a passive voice. One of the things English teachers will tell you about writing right away (or at least this was the case with mine) is that you want to write in an active voice, writing passively can cause disconnect between the reader and writer as well as a myriad of other issues. When you reach the end of the book the reasoning for this style choice is made apparent, though I’m not sure it couldn’t have been avoided if Cook had wanted to. It does take getting used to but I don’t think it hindered Red Leaves at all.
The plot was wonderful and easily the highlight of the book. By using the psychosis Eric goes through as the book progresses it keeps the reader from determining who might have been behind Amy’s disappearance. It forces you to try and make your own assertions, deducing which of Eric’s paranoid discoveries are real and impactful on the case and which are just delusions his troubled mind has created. Along the way the characters around Eric, from his wife to his son and even to Amy’s father and Eric’s brother Warren, all change and transform in front of Eric’s eyes as well as the reader’s but in different ways. While Eric sees everyone behind a lens of suspicion the reader has a slightly clearer view, but even still Cook is masterful in hiding what really happened leaving all options open to the reader’s interpretation.
My main complaint about the book is the ending. Part of it did not surprise me but the “who done it” reveal was disappointing to say the least. It left me feeling like all the emotions I had built up for the characters and the desire I had to finally determine who was the guilty party was for nothing. Though characters were impacted they were not done so nearly as much as they could or should have been. It felt like a cop out which was terribly disappointing after the vast majority of the book had been so thrilling. Overall though I did enjoy Red Leaves and I think it is a solid mystery/thriller. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 84!