‘Gone Tonight’ by Sarah Pekkanen (2023) Book Review – An enjoyable thriller that just misses out on being a great read

An enjoyable thriller that just misses out on being a great read

Sarah Pekkanen’s latest thriller is a decent read but it’s certainly not as spectacular as it could have been. And that’s a shame because there’s a lot to like here.

The story centers on two women – a mother (Ruth) and her daughter (Catherine). This psychologically charged story then swings like a pendulum between the two, building up layers of suspense but never quite hitting that X-factor you’re waiting to feel.

The story itself is essentially split into two narrative arcs in one. The first plays out as a mystery, as both Catherine and Ruth hold secrets and play an intricate game of chess as they uncover what the other may be hiding. The point of view chapters switches between the two women, with exposition delivered naturally and in a surprisingly effective manner. If that wasn’t enough, Ruth’s chapters also include a further flashback device, coming in the form of her writing letters to Catherine about her past and what’s led to this moment in time.

When the book reaches its halfway mark however, and most of the cards have ben laid out on the table, Gone Tonight switches up its tone and ploughs full steam ahead into thriller territory. The trouble is, there are some plot contrivances and issues that start to spring forth here, causing cracks to ripple through the foundations of the tale.

To go into detail would be a disservice to Gone Tonight but as spoiler-free as possible, Ruth’s encounters with Target, along with a certain kitchen incident both feel very contrived that bend the believability factor a bit too much. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a distinct lack of law enforcement throughout this tale, and given one of the big parts of this story revolves around this, Gone Tonight feels a bit disingenuous not to even pick up on it.

However, the characters of both Catherine and Ruth are brilliant and understanding what drives them both is easily the stand-out of Sarah Pekkanen’s latest. They’re so well crafted and the narrative arcs they both take is woven so well through the story, all the way over to a chilling and somewhat ambiguous ending for where these two end up when the book comes to an end.

This is certainly not a bad thriller, but similarly it’s not as good as Pekkanen’s other works. The narrative is in desperate need of sharpening up a bit from the midway point onwards because the use of language, the natural dialogue and character progression here are all really well done.

If you can suspend your disbelief over the tale and take to the characters, Gone Tonight is a compelling enough page-turner, even if it’s not quite the “can’t put down” thriller is tries to present itself as.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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