Audiobook Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (May 14, 3019)
Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
Narrators: Gabra Zackman, Saskia Maarleveld
Okay, so if you or anyone you know is nervous about online dating, then The Night Before is definitely NOT the book to read! Pretty much every nightmare scenario involving lies, deceit, and misrepresentation you can think of is covered in this suspenseful thriller that will leave you guessing at every turn. At the center of this story is Laura Lochner, who has not had much luck in her life when it comes to romance. She has a tendency to fall in love too hard and too fast, and usually for the wrong type of guy. When these relationships inevitably end, they also always seem to send Laura into a tailspin, so that not even her closest friends and family can usually predict her next moves.
Then there’s Rosie, Laura’s older sister, who is almost the complete opposite. Rosie never really had to worry about dating and love, for she ended up marrying Joe, one of her best friends since childhood. They are in as much love today as they were when they started dating in their teens, and now they are raising a young son together. Rosie, however, is worried about Laura, having spent much of her life looking after her sister and knowing how volatile the younger woman can get whenever her relationships implode. Recently, Laura has moved in with Rosie and Joe following her latest breakup when the man she was seeing suddenly dumped her over text message. After some time, Laura feels ready to date again, turning to an online dating site, much to the disapproval of her sister who doesn’t really trust blind dates. Still, Rosie wants to be supportive, and watches with trepidation and hope as Laura drives off to meet the man she connected with online.
But when Laura does not come home that night, nor the following morning, Rosie’s worst fears are confirmed. Laura is missing. None of the calls placed to her phone are connecting, the car she left in was found empty with two parking tickets in the window. Desperate to find her sister, Rosie enlists the help of her husband and their friends to try and track down Laura’s last known whereabouts and movements. Everyone thinks Rosie is just terrified for her sister, but the reality is actually more complicated than that. No one else knows Laura the way she does. No one else knows exactly what Laura is capable of.
Told in chapters alternating between the two women’s POVs, the novel gradually unravels the truth of what happened the night Laura went on her date. Rosie’s perspective is in the present, chronicling all the steps she and her friends take in their efforts to find her missing sister. The panic and desperation in these sections are ever present, relentlessly driving the narrative forward. In contrast, Laura’s perspective generates interest using slow reveals, with the bulk of it taking place the night of her date with “Jonathan Fields”, the charming man she met through the dating site. Working in tandem, the two POVs weave a fascinating narrative that ratchets up the tension and suspense, leaving you wondering just what the hell is going on. In addition, the story also includes brief interview snippets of Laura’s sessions with her therapist from four months ago, in which they discussed her relationship problems and why she feels she is “unlovable”. Of course, it is not immediately clear why these sections were included in the book, until close to the end when all the stunning answers are revealed.
The author Wendy Walker also plays some tricks of her own, ensuring that our characters’ knowledge of the night in question remains separate. We only know what Laura knows while we are with her on her date, and likewise the next day, Rosie’s investigation is undertaken with what limited information she has access to. Even knowing this, I have to admit I made the mistake of making many assumptions and fell prey several times for the story’s clever misdirection, even when I was suspicious and on full alert, which I think is a testament to Walker’s storytelling skills.
That said, I don’t think The Night Before was anything too extraordinary when it comes to the plot’s structure or delivery. I enjoyed the online dating angle and the surprises at the end, but as thrillers go, it is pretty standard for the genre. Still, that’s not a negative by any means. Overall it was a fun read, and its quick pacing and sharp twists had me hooked. I would not hesitate to recommend it if you’re looking for a suspenseful and engaging psychological thriller.