Book Review: The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen

The perfect girls' weekend turns deadly in Leah Konen's The Perfect Escape, a twisty thriller that is perfect for fans of Shari Lapena and Riley Sager.

Girlfriends Sam, Diana, and Margaret have arranged the perfect escape from the daily grind and their individual troubled romantic relationships. It’s going to be a weekend of peace and mutual support. Sam is determined to forget about her recent divorce for a few days. Diana is freeing herself from an abusive ex. And Margaret is struggling with her alcoholic partner after a terrible loss. Together these women have forged a friendship in the city, and they will further their bond over mimosas in the mountains.

Then—in a weird situation at a gas station—they lose the keys to the car, stranding them overnight in a small mountain town miles away from their destination. They manage to find a place to stay while they sort out the car problem. While they wait, they decide to go out for a night of fun—this is supposed to be a vacation, right?

But in the midst of their fun, Diana disappears. And all the secrets these women keep buried are about to come crawling out.

The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen is a story about relationships and what happens when those relationships—friendships, marriages—are built on shaky foundations. While, in the Q&A in the back of the novel, Konen states that the plot came before the characters, it’s the characters’ drives which create the central troubles of these interweaving stories. Told in alternating first person chapters, the women reveal their secrets bit by bit which effectively builds tension as we learn what these people are capable of.

Let’s take a closer look at Sam and Margaret—the two friends of the triangle who dominate the narrative (since Diana disappears).

When we meet Sam, she is clearly still hung up on her ex: Harry. They had a quick courtship and speedy engagement, so Sam’s sick father could attend their gorgeous wedding. Harry was always supportive of her family. A hero.

So when Harry left Sam for his ex, the move completely blindsided her.

But Harry’s leaving—it was so sudden. I came home one night, and his bags were by the door, and he was telling me he was sorry, that he felt sick about how he was hurting me, but that she needed him now, that his feelings for her, he’d tried to deal with them, but they wouldn’t go away.

 

It was the first I’d heard her name spoken in months. I almost wanted to laugh, ask him if this was some sort of early, ill-timed April Fools’ joke. And then, when he hadn’t cracked a smile, the absolute, horrifying shock of it had kicked in.

 

Before I had a minute to think, he was walking out the door.

The whole situation sends Sam into a tailspin. And when she discovers the threesome has managed to get stranded in the town where Harry now lives with his ex-wife, she secretly hopes to run into him. In fact, she secretly arranges to run into him at the bar where she, Diana, and Margaret have drinks to forget their rough day.

While Sam is busy with her machinations to get back together—however briefly—with her ex-husband, Margaret is looking to forget her current partner and the fact her son would’ve been one year old this very weekend. She hasn’t told her friends about this tragic loss; she’s trying to deal with it on her own terms.

When Sam mysteriously vanishes (to hook up with Harry) and Diana heads off to smoke, Margaret seizes the moment to get to know a handsome stranger at the bar.

When I finally got back, our seats were empty, our drinks as I left them, napkins atop each one, except they were sweating, condensation turning the paper coasters beneath them into mush.

 

I slunk into my seat and slid the napkin off one of the drinks.

 

“I’m guessing this means your friends didn’t turn up?” the man asked.

 

I shook my head. “They’re…preoccupied.”

 

He smirked. “I’m Alex, by the way,” he said, extending his hand.

 

His eyes were kind, the wort old novels would call “fine.” The sort of eyes that made you smile.

 

I found myself smiling, in that moment. Smiling without even trying to—unusual for me.

 

Hell, if my friends were busy talking to guys, I suppose there’s no reason I couldn’t join in the fun. I took a sip of the drink, the tequila going straight to my head, then balanced it with water. I wondered briefly if this was how Lars felt all the time now, hazy and untethered.

 

I extended my hand, and his was warm after the cool condensation of the glass.

 

“Margaret.”

As Sam and Margaret handle their losses in their own way, they lose track of Diana. She vanishes without a trace. In the chaos of trying to find their friend, they learn something even more shocking: the police can find no record of a Diana Holbein at all. Their friend was someone else entirely.

Each of these women have hidden motivations to do what they do. Taken individually, everything probably would have been okay. But their secrets have an underlying common denominator. Sam’s ex-love, Margaret’s current fling, and Diana’s past all collide in one unforgettable weekend. And none of their lives will ever be the same again.

Leah Konen’s The Perfect Escape might make you think twice about going out this weekend with your girlfriends—so you can hunker down with hot tea and speed-read through this fast-paced story.

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