book blog · book review

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker



One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.


*Synopsis and photo from Goodreads


*I would like to thank the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve mentioned before that I never get tired reading about missing person storyline. I always find it interesting how authors will put a twist into it to make their book different from the others. And Emma in the Night is not your usual missing person story. It is quite unpredictable, for start.

The Tanner sisters, 17-year-old Emma and 15-year-old Cassandra mysteriously disappeared one night after a heated argument with each other. And though the FBI became involved with the case, the girls weren’t found and their disappearance is still a huge mystery especially to the agency’s forensic psychiatrist, Abigail Winter. There is something about the case that bothers Abby so much that it is so hard for her to let it go. And she knows she is not far from the truth, the mother of the missing girls has narcissistic personality disorder. A condition she’s very much familiar as her mom had the same condition. Three years later, the case is still unsolved and Abby finally comes to term that the Tanner’s case is done. She is trying her best to move on from the case, and so is the sisters’ family. But then, Cass came back…alone. Cass recounted everything that happened to her and Emma the night they’ve gone missing, the things they went through in the hands of their kidnappers and how she finally managed to escape. Despite Cass’ plausible statement, Abby is certain that there’s more to her story than she’s telling them. But why is she holding back when it’s clear how much she wanted her sister saved? If they want Emma found, Abby needs Cass to tell everything before it’s too late. But what if the truth is even more disturbing than Abby expected?

I can think tons of words to describe this book, but crazy will be at the top of my list. It is disturbing and twisted yet riveting at the same time. The plot is intriguing with missing sisters and one coming back, coupled with the psychological element, having a mother with narcissistic personality disorder, add to that interesting set of characters and you’re in for a thrilling read. The story focuses on the mystery that lies on the disappearance of the Tanner sisters, the sudden reappearance of Cassandra without Emma and how the mother’s disorder affected the family in so many ways. As the story unfolds, it became evident how dysfunctional the Tanner/Martin family is. Theirs is a complicated family bound by the manipulation of the narcissist mother, Judy Martin. She is truly one character you can’t help but despise.

It was told in alternating points of view between Abby and Cass. While Abby is a solid narrator despite her troubled past, Cass, in contrast, is an unreliable main character. And yet there is something about her that makes you sympathize with her. From the very beginning, you know there is something that she’s hiding. And it dragged on until the ending to know whatever it is. And boy, what a surprising revelation that is. I came up with some theories reading on, and while some are correct, others are so far off. Is she a victim in all this or is she a manipulator like her mother and sister? Cass’ story is too polished, almost rehearsed, and I know it is how it’s supposed to be but at some point it gets boring. It can also be confusing whenever she decided to give an account of her past as it gets muddled with the present and it takes time to get used to it. I think it will work better had the past been narrated as flashback instead of Cass telling it to everyone. Once adjusted to her narrating though, it is easier to get lost in the complexity of her family’s life and it keeps my interest until the end. The emotional abuse Cass and Emma went through in the hands of their mother is sickening.

And though both Judy and Emma are unlikeable characters, there is no denying that they are also very interesting. Mother and daughter both vying for not only each other’s attention but also for the attention of the people around them. They manipulate people just because they know they are capable of it. I am not aware of narcissistic personality disorder before reading this and I’m glad to have learned a lot about it in this book. It is truly fascinating.

In Emma in the Night, Wendy Walker weaves a twisted novel of emotional abuse, lies, and deception within a dysfunctional family. The family drama is crazy but it is one of the things I did enjoy. It is a great read for sure and something that will stay with you for a long time. A must-read for psychological thriller lover out there.

RATING: 4.5/5



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