Coles Notes: If you like a good twist…

By Catherine Coles

When the best part of a book is how it manages to manipulate the reader, it is difficult to fully explain its plot without veering into spoiler territory. While I’ve done my best to describe the following four books, be assured that they have more to offer the reader than what I have conveyed. These books are all dark and character-driven but most of their appeal is all tied up in the twist.

The Substitute by Canadian author Nicole Lundrigan follows a reserved Ph.D. turned middle-school substitute teacher named Warren. When one of his students turns up dead in his backyard, all eyes turn to Warren as the probable murderer. Meanwhile, an unnamed narrator (who is clearly a child psychopath) tells another story entirely. It takes a long time for the two stories to intersect but when they do you’ll be glad you stuck with the novel through the slower Warren chapters. The ending is so unexpected, it had me going back to the beginning to check for clues! To be honest, I didn’t love the book until I realized at the end that it had me completely fooled. No question this speaks to the skillful writing of the author. The Substitute will be released at the end of the month.

Heather, The Totality is a short, read-in-one-sitting novel by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. Obviously, Weiner has a knack for character development and such is the case here. The publisher synopsis for this book is simple, probably in an effort not to give anything away. It is described as “a collision course between a privileged family and a dangerous young man.” I’ll go further than that.

Heather, The Totality follows a dysfunctional married couple living in NYC and their young daughter and only child, Heather, whom they worship. It also follows a man named Bobby, a twisted character from the wrong side of the tracks. He has recently been released from prison and has his eyes set on Heather. The race to the conclusion (Bobby’s “collision course” with the family) is eerie and suspenseful. The conclusion itself is certainly not what I had expected. You’ll have a bit of a wait for this title — its anticipated release isn’t until November 2017.

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay is completely unputdownable from start to finish. It takes place in a police station where Angela, our narrator, is being questioned by a murder investigator. A woman has gone missing and evidently Angela had something to do with it or, at least, knows something of relevance to the investigation. Instead of simply answering questions, Angela decides to tell the whole story from start to finish. We soon learn that she was on opposite sides of a love triangle from Saskia, the missing woman in question. Angela is manipulative no doubt, but so is the author — so you won’t know who to trust in this excellent debut.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is a domestic thriller with a genre-bending twist. It follows the perspectives of two women in the past and present: the beautiful, unhinged wife of a psychiatrist and his secretary/mistress. There is clearly something off about their marriage, something trapping them together,  and it’s certainly not something you are expecting! This novel appears trite at first glance and maybe even well into the story, but the twist is certainly something to marvel at.

All of these titles can be reserved today by visiting and placing a hold. Thank you to the publishers of The Substitute and Heather, The Totality for providing me with advance reader copies of these titles in exchange for honest reviews.

Catherine Coles is the Manager of Library Services for Lennox and Addington County.

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