There’s No Place Like Home

Everyone's heard this one about a million times: the timeless and yet overused expression, "There's no place like home." But there's something about this simple phrase that strikes a chord with me. Home is where you find joy, comfort, love, support, and a sense of security; where you feel the most wanted, appreciated, and involved.

So, feelings of comfort and security, huh? Let's see what happens in these homes now, shall we?

The Boy at the Door

One mistake---one choice---can haunt us forever.

Imagine...

A small, unfamiliar boy is standing, parentless, companionless, by the swimming pool reception area. The pool is closing. The receptionist wants to go home. You want to go home. The receptionist asks you to take the boy home and you agree, reluctantly. But when you get there, the house is clearly not a home. What do you do now? It's dark. It's late. It's raining. Do you call someone? Do you take the child home with you?

Cecilia Wilborg takes the boy home. Why she does this and the subsequent threat to her carefully curated existence forms the narrative of this compelling thriller set in the privileged town of Sandefjord, Norway. Soon she discovers that the boy, Tobias, has a connection to a drug user named Anni---a woman who knows some shocking secrets that Cecilia has tried very hard to hide.

Dahl cleverly interweaves chapters told from Cecilia's point of view with Tobias' backstory and excerpts from Anni's diaries and letters, revealing or hinting towards just enough information to keep us frantically turning pages, searching for the truth. This debut is a genuine page-turner, a fascinating psychological study and a must-read for people who can't resist twisty thrillers with unreliable narrators.

What does he want from you?

The Woman in the Window

It isn't paranoia if it's really happening...

Anna Fox, a former child psychologist, lives alone in her large house in New York City. She hasn't left her home in months because of a severe case of agoraphobia. She spends much of her time sitting at the window that overlooks the park behind her house using a camera lens to zoom in on her neighbors and watch their lives unfold. After Anna spies a new family's arrival on the block, her entire world is shattered when she witnesses something violent and shocking take place in their home one evening. Or does she?

While Anna continues to self-medicate with alcohol and poorly-managed prescriptions, her credibility is steadily destroyed. She shows herself to be a rather unreliable narrator. As the novel progressed, I could feel this gradual sense of dread, paranoia, and suspense seeping out of each page. Finn used some of the best character development I've ever encountered---Anna's voice was strong and authentic; even the setting was vividly rendered---her home truly felt like an actual character as well.

Finn's crackling thriller with its suffocating sense of tension, its meticulously explored and confined setting, and its impressive control over plot and reveal will be hitting the big screen someday soon. Why am I not surprised?

What did she see?

A Stranger in the House

Danger lies close to home...

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy---they've got a lovely home in upstate New York, they're practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. This seemingly-perfect domestic relationship is thrown into turmoil when Karen is accused of murder.

After waking up in the hospital, she is told that she was in a car accident after speeding through the worst part of town. She's mostly okay---except that she can't remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient and suspect she was up to no good.

Back at home, Karen realizes something's not quite right. Someone's been in her house...

Lapena tells the story from a third-person, omniscient point of view focusing in on the character in question, which I found very effective. Since it soon becomes clear that there's much more to Karen, and Tom, than meets the eye, the case becomes more and more complicated. Will they ever find out who the killer is?

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Brigid, Karen's supposed best friend, who has some strange habits and tendencies. Quite intrusive and downright creepy!

Everyone's a stranger in this house...

How well do you know your spouse? Or anyone, really? 

Now, we know that your home can influence your sense of who you are and is essential for your psychological well-being. So what does that say about what goes on in these twisty thrillers? These authors blew me away with their depictions of the secrets and lies, the dread and suspicion within these homes. Exceptional!

What does "home" mean to you?

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