Book Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

cover for emma in the night,
© St. Martin’s Press, 2017


“One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.” (Source: Goodreads)


Over-hyped psychological thrillers plague readers and as I settled into my chair to read Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker, I was weary. After all, The Girl on the Train failed to meet my expectations after reading Gone Girl despite its praise. In this case, largely due to my preference for horror over other genres, I am grateful not to suffer the effects of psych-thriller saturation. That doesn’t leave me without flaws, though: I made assumptions after the first pages of Emma in the Night, with little expectation of discovering precisely how wrong I was.

It’s rare that I become so engrossed in a book that it haunts my every day routine. In fact, the last book that gripped me that tightly is Bird Box by Josh Malerman. For those readers who are fairly new to my blog, Bird Box is among the first reviews I wrote. When I found myself constantly thinking about the first few chapters of this book, I knew Walker had me in her web. Little did I know that I would lose sleep over Emma in the Night (not that I’m complaining, of course).

Without going into too much detail about my personal life, the fact Walker centers Emma in the Night around the effects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is precisely why I felt the need to read this book. Unfortunately, I have far more personal experience with this disorder than I like. As a result, I was curious as to how well Walker writes about the issue and it’s obvious she’s more than done her share of research. In the despicable character of Judy Martin, Walker educates readers about how deeply a narcissistic parent can affect their children’s lives. She does so wonderful a job of this that I’m actually quite glad to say I read the acknowledgments first.

Told from alternating first-person and third-person perspectives (Cassandra Tanner and Dr. Abigail Winter respectively), Walker leads readers on a twisting path that pays homage to the old saying “trust no one” by reminding us that people “believe what they want to believe.” After all, to Cass, Emma, and Judy it’s a game that escalates beyond their expectations.

As I said in the beginning of the review, I made an assumption that proved  wrong. Perhaps because of this, Walker caught me off-guard several times. Regardless, the depth of her prose proved, to me at least, worthy of its hype. Last night, when I tried to go to bed between one and two in the morning, I found myself unable to stop thinking about this book. Because of that, I ended up reading the last 60-70% in one sitting. I regret nothing.

Emma in the Night is a well-researched, twistingly disturbing road through one family’s dysfunctional every day life. While I rebuke The Girl on the Train as a recommendation for fans of Gone Girl, I can say I feel sound in suggesting Emma in the Night instead.

I would like to thank NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for a copy of this novel. I received it in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Rating: 💀💀💀💀💀

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