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How Will I Know You?


How Will I Know You?

High school senior Joy Enright is dead. For many residents of the small town in northern upstate New York, lives will be changed forever and some well-hidden secrets will be revealed.

HOW WILL I KNOW YOU? is a mystery that focuses less on investigation and more on character study. In this sense, after a while it is not so important who the killer is, but what happened to the four main characters who are telling their stories before and after Joy’s murder. Susanne is Joy’s mother and a professor at the local art college. She used to have a good marriage and a wonderful life until her husband made a bad financial investment. This regrettable decision was followed by too much wine at a party and an affair with Susanne’s teaching assistant, a black graduate student named Martin Willett, who is the only one telling his story from the first-person point of view. Martin becomes the prime suspect in Joy’s murder, not so much because he was seen near the place of her disappearance or was her mother’s lover, but because he is black. Through Martin’s story, author Jessica Treadway subtly shows existing racial problems in 21st-century America.

"HOW WILL I KNOW YOU? is an amazingly written and intense novel, an outstanding thriller with a wonderful plot and memorable characters."

The third character is Joy’s oldest friend, Harper. A potential witness to the murder, she also has to deal with so many issues that during the course of the investigation she makes some bad decisions. And finally there is Tom Carbone, a diver, shop owner, and son-in-law of the local interim police chief Doug Armstrong. Doug does not like Tom, who tries so hard and for so long to get his father-in-law’s approval and make his wife happy. After Doug arrests Martin, Tom starts his private investigation and finds out many things that make him dislike Doug even more.

The similarity among the characters is that they are all stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have to choose sides and weigh what is the right thing to do. All of them could be judged because of their decisions, but they should not be, because they all act in good faith and protect or help someone they love. Treadway does marvelous psychological profiles of all the characters, not just the ones mentioned in this review.

The resolution of the mystery is important for the story, and insight is provided in the last minutes of Joy’s life. Besides that, in the second-to-last chapter, Treadway reveals Joy’s motives for turning from good girl to not-such-a-good girl in a matter of a few months. But most importantly, the author shows the banality of her death. HOW WILL I KNOW YOU? is an amazingly written and intense novel, an outstanding thriller with a wonderful plot and memorable characters.

Reviewed by Dunja Bonacci Skenderovic on December 9, 2016

How Will I Know You?
by Jessica Treadway