Monday, June 19, 2023

Book Review: The Stepson


By Sara Steven

The night my mum disappeared, after a panicked 3am phonecall, I knew something was wrong.

The police tried to reassure me. There had to be a logical explanation they said – perhaps she’s taking a break after the tragic death of my father.

But I know my mum.

Or do I?

She would never leave without telling me.

Or would she?

The harder I look, the more I discover deep, dark family secrets I was not privy to.

Worrying secrets I was never meant to know.

Which means my parents have lied to me my whole life.

But why?

Who can I turn to? Trust?

Were they scared of something in their past?

Or were they trying to protect me?

Has mum gone on her own free will?

Or has someone taken her? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Stepson was truly suspenseful! In some ways, it reminded me of the movie He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. The first half of the book is mainly told from Lorraine’s perspective–the synopsis reflects her inner thoughts. We also gain insight from outside sources, leading the reader to lean heavily one way when it comes to what is really going on. Yet, as we delve further in, we start to better understand the truth. I thought for sure that certain characters could be relied upon to be truthful and honest, but that completely changed the more I’d read. And for a long time, I had a lot of negative feelings towards Sandra, Lorraine’s mother, but then I’d go easy on her–until I’d swing the other way again. I felt just as confused as Lorraine is!

There are multiple timelines involved, but it really helped to round out the story. Lorraine’s timeline is the here and now. Other timelines go back decades. The secrets and lies include over thirty years of involvement, so it’s understandable. Lorraine’s frustration and confusion, her need to do all she can to find out what has really happened to Sandra felt believable. She’s following her own leads while towing around two young children, with no assistance to boot. 

As one secret is revealed, more are unraveled. The tragic death of Lorraine’s father has a lot more going on behind the scenes, and is connected to Sandra’s disappearance. Lorraine begins to see him in the flesh, with glimpses that make her question her sanity. There were so many moments when I would start to worry that something might happen to Lorraine, or one of her kids, or to someone else who had reached out and given Lorraine a lifeline. But then nothing would happen, and in the next moment when I thought things were going to be OK and in the clear, BAM! That’s when trouble would ensue, completely throwing me off. 

I’m a big fan of suspenseful, scary stories, and while The Stepson isn’t an outright horror genre read, it’s still scary, all the same. I was right there with Lorraine, wanting to discover the truth–no matter what. It was a definite five-star experience!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Diane Saxon previously wrote romantic fiction for the US market but has now turned to writing psychological crime. Find Her Alive was her first novel in this genre and introduced series character DS Jenna Morgan. She is married to a retired policeman and lives in Shropshire.

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