I have decided that I never want to find myself living in a Wendy Corsi Staub novel. Her domestic thrillers put people and their loved ones through the ringer and the fast cycle, in situations and places with which most sane people would not want to deal. At the same time, everyone --- and I mean everyone --- has a past, even if they may not be aware of it. What happens when the past collides with the present?
"SHADOWKILLER is certainly to be included among Staub’s best novels to date. Suspense abounds; careful readers will see where some, but not all, of the book will wind up, a fact that makes the twisting and turning journey all the more enjoyable."
This is a question that brings us to SHADOWKILLER, the final installment in Staub’s trilogy that kicked off with NIGHTWATCHER and continued in SLEEPWALKER. Jim “Mack” MacKenna went through some major hassles in the last novel, and now his wife, Allison, has her turn in the spotlight. Such a state of affairs was to be expected. Mack’s first wife, Carrie, supposedly was killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers; Allison, who was their neighbor, and Mack slowly gravitated toward each other in the months afterward and ultimately married. But, as was revealed at the conclusion of SLEEPWALKER, Carrie is very much alive. Worse, she has more loose screws rattling around in her head than Home Depot. Carrie is a master of deception, to an extent and degree that is chilling. As SHADOWKILLER unfolds, it becomes evident that she has a major resentment toward Allison that long precedes Mack’s marriage to Allison.
The book’s first half or so is quite interesting, detailing bits and pieces of Carrie’s background, as well as that of Allison. The latter is revealed as the MacKennas plan a motor trip back to Nebraska, where Allison lived as a child, in order to visit her brother, whom she has not seen in decades. At the same time, Carrie’s plan for her “widowed” husband and his family is slowly revealed. But it is during the second half of the novel where Staub, who so carefully set up a number of scenarios in the first part, takes her foot off the brake and lets the story --- and the reader --- go careening through a series of hairpin turns, as Carrie’s revenge and the reason for it are unveiled and unleashed, with a climax you will never forget.
SHADOWKILLER is certainly to be included among Staub’s best novels to date. Suspense abounds; careful readers will see where some, but not all, of the book will wind up, a fact that makes the twisting and turning journey all the more enjoyable. It gradually became clear to me where the climax was going to occur, and I was right. I choked my way through most of the last 15 or so pages. Seriously. My wife asked, “What’s going on in the book? Does it have anything to do with *******?” “Yes, it does!” I yelled, “but I can’t stop reading!” I daresay that you will not be able to stop turning the pages either.
Additionally, as if the generous page count is not enough, a preview of THE GOOD SISTER, the first book in Staub’s forthcoming series, is also included. That’s a title with a lot of promise, and if the first few pages are any indication, the entire trilogy is sure to be a winner. Put both on your must-read list.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 8, 2013