A Good Mystery Wrapped Around Laborious Prose
All The Dangerous Things certainly isn’t a game changer in the thriller field, but it is a decent read and boasts a gripping mystery that’ll be enough to keep you hooked to find out what happens at the end. The conclusion definitely makes that journey worth it, although the ride there is far longer and laborious than it should be. The writing style in particular is going to be an acquired taste, especially those expecting a punchy, rapid-fire edge to their thrillers.
The story is pretty good though and centers on a distraught, grief-stricken mother called Isabelle Drake. Her life is changed forever when her toddler son, Mason, is taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband, Ben, are asleep in the next room.
With little evidence to go on and leads starting to dry up, not to mention the police losing interest as the case grows cold, Isabelle finds herself alone in her mission to learn the truth about her son.
Isabelle continues to attend conventions for true-crime aficionados, but things really take off when she meets Waylon, an enthusiastic podcaster who may just hold the key to unlock everything.
Part of that unlocking comes in the form of Isabelle herself, who embodies the “unreliable narrator” angle perfectly. She has a history of sleepwalking; a trigger brought on from a tragedy in her past. The book jumps back to the past at regular intervals, presenting “Izzy’s” history, and working well to keep you guessing around what happened to Mason in the present.
An ending can make or break a book and to be fair to author Stacy Willingham, she does well to craft a story with all the clues in place with red herrings built on top of more red herrings. You’re unlikely to guess the true outcome of this one unless you’re really paying attention and I must admit, my thoughts jumped between two characters in particular throughout. One of which ended up being false, the other correct.
In retrospect though, you’re likely to feel that some of the twists are overly manufactured, as if the real culprit was way too easy to guess and Willingham needed extra steps in place and a few fake-outs to keep you invested to throw you off the scent.
There are a few clichés and tropes that pop up along the way – including the unfaithful husband, useless police and the aforementioned red herrings, but the most egregious problem with the book comes from the prose itself. This book is unnecessarily wordy and there’s a good 50 pages or so that could have been cut from this completely. Descriptive writing is fine unto itself, but the sheer number of similes, long, lavish descriptive paragraphs and analogies – even so far as literally several sentences after a big reveal – do this book no favours.
Thankfully, All The Dangerous Things has enough in the tank to overlook some of these issues and make it through to the end. You’ll be glad you did though; the mystery is well worked and the resolution at the end is great. Unfortunately, this is another book that’s far longer than it should be, with a writing style that’s going to be an acquired taste for many. It’s certainly not a bad book but one can’t help but feel it could have been so much better.
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Verdict - 6.5/10