Book Review: Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker
By Emma CazabonneSeptember 14, 2020
In Wendy Walker’s thrilling novel Don’t Look for Me, the greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time.
With this sharp and riveting new thriller by Wendy Walker, take your psychological novel reading to a higher and deeper level.
These last six years or so have seen a renewed interest in psychological thrillers and a publication of many popular titles, which unfortunately eclipsed some less commercially visible authors. With Don’t Look For Me, Wendy Walker is now publishing her fourth book in this genre. If you weren’t paying attention already, now is certainly the time to invest.
Walker embarked on her writing career with significant experiences in law and psychology. In her first three psychological thrillers, she adeptly drew from these two toolboxes to craft refined and compelling mysteries with a strong emphasis on what we know about trauma and memory.
In Don’t Look For Me, while still focusing on trauma psychology, she also turns to child psychology, and to the relationship between adults and children.
The book opens in Connecticut with Molly on her way home during a very stormy night. For five years, she has been living with the heavy burden of having accidentally run over her own daughter. She cannot forgive herself, and she believes her husband and other two children hate her for it. So she often entertains the idea of leaving them, thinking they would be happier without her. She stops at a gas station, but it is closed because of the storm, so she accepts the help of a truck, with a man and a little girl inside. And then Molly never gets home.
Then the rest of the book is built in alternating chapters: the odd-numbered chapters start on Day 13 and are from the point of view of Nicole, Molly’s older daughter, who is trying to figure out what happened to her mother. They are written in the third person and in the past tense. The even-numbered chapters start on Day 2, they are in the first-person narrative, and in the present tense, Molly is the narrator. So the only thing you know at that point is that Molly is alive. And this is all I can really tell you about the plot.
I thoroughly enjoyed this extremely efficient narration pace. As the story develops, the chapters get shorter and shorter, making the story speed up and the suspense boil over with intensity. The last twelve chapters have a great number of twists and unexpected turns.
In connection with this point, it was really neat to see the meaning of the title evolve as the plot advanced.
And to add to the suspense, the atmosphere of many scenes is extremely well conveyed.
The road feels like a tunnel, carved between the walls of brown cornfields which flank the road on both sides and go on as far as the eye can see. Darkness now hovers above and below, and from side to side. It’s everywhere…
Neglected farmland, dilapidated houses, abandoned factories–they stand like tombstones. I wonder where people live. Where they buy groceries. Where they work and go out to dinner. Why they don’t leave.
You can feel yourself drive on this road:
Nic hated this road. She hated the way it fell off at the shoulder into dirt and gravel and how the dirt hung in the air long after being kicked up. She hated the thick, brown cornfields that stood high on either side like a scene out of a Stephen King novel.
Nicole’s investigation is more complex than it seems at first glance. She didn’t keep an eye on her younger sister as she was supposed to. So like her mother, she has her own share of guilt about the death of little Annie. This translates into depression, alcohol abuse, and sexual involvement with strangers. When she hears about a possible lead, she goes to find the help of the police and revisit the places where Molly might have been seen the night she disappeared: did her Mum run away? Did something happen to her?
To go back to the author’s professional background, many passages highlight how real-life experiences can be so different from psychology and counseling textbooks. Many interactions in the novel between adults and children do indeed sound very real and complex, and not as clear cut as some diagnostic manuals tend to imply.
The story is very much enriched by this rich psychological background, just like in the author’s three previous books. If you want to take your psychological thriller reading to a higher and deeper level, then you need to read Wendy Walker.