Title: As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Length: 385 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the acclaimed author of Ruin Falls and Cover of Snow comes a breathless new novel of psychological suspense about a dark, twisted turn of events that could shatter a family—a read perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Chris Bohjalian, and Nancy Pickard.
Sandy Tremont has always tried to give her family everything. But, as the sky darkens over the Adirondacks and a heavy snowfall looms, an escaped murderer with the power to take it all away draws close.
In her isolated home in the shadowy woods, Sandy prepares dinner after a fight with her daughter, Ivy. Upstairs, the fifteen-year-old—smart, brave, and with every reason to be angry tonight—keeps her distance from her mother. Sandy’s husband, Ben, a wilderness guide, arrives late to find a home simmering with unease.
Nearby, two desperate men on the run make their way through the fading light, bloodstained and determined to leave no loose ends or witnesses. After almost twenty years as prison cellmates, they have become a deadly team: Harlan the muscle, Nick the mind and will. As they approach a secluded house and look through its windows to see a cozy domestic scene, Nick knows that here he will find what he’s looking for . . . before he disappears forever.
Opening the door to the Tremont home, Nick brings not only a legacy of terror but a secret that threatens to drag Sandy with him into the darkness.
As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman is a pulse pounding psychological thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the story’s dramatic conclusion.
The night begins like any other night in the Tremont household. Sandy is putting the finishing touches on dinner while waiting for her husband Ben and daughter Ivy to return home. Ivy arrives first and after a bit of an argument with Sandy, she storms upstairs to her room. Sandy and Ben enjoy a rare dinner alone after Ivy refuses to come downstairs and eat with them. However, their evening takes a frightening turn when two strangers enter the secluded house through the unlocked front door as Sandy and Ben are cleaning up the kitchen. The two men, Nick and Harlan, are escaped convicts who want something that only Ben can provide but violence erupts when Ben fights to protect his family from the intruders. Just when it seems nothing else can go wrong, an early snowstorm wreaks havoc on Nick’s plans and the Tremont’s terror continues unabated for the next several hours.
Nick and Harlan are cellmates and although Harlan is the one everyone first fears, it soon becomes apparent that Nick is the brains behind the escape while Harlan supplies the brawn. Nick is highly intelligent and personable until things begin to spiral out of control and he is quick to respond to any threats with cold, calculated violence. Harlan is a gentle giant but his less than average intelligence leaves him vulnerable to Nick’s manipulation. He obeys Nick without question although he is uncomfortable with what he is being ordered to do.
Sandy is a therapist and she employs some tricks of the trade as she tries to drive a wedge between the two men. Some of her endeavors are moderately successful but she completely underestimates Nick’s ability to read any situation. Many of these attempts backfire, further endangering the family. Ben’s instinct to protect his wife and daughter is overwhelming and he refuses to quit fighting even in the face of escalating violence. Ivy’s survival instincts are equally strong and she never stops trying to escape her captors.
One of the questions that drives the story is understanding why Nick targeted the Tremont family. On the surface, the answer appears clear early on, but the real reason behind Nick’s motive for selecting the Tremont’s is quite shocking. Equally perplexing is the reason the men were incarcerated in the first place. Flashbacks provide valuable insight into Nick’s behavior from the time he was quite young and while it is obvious that he most likely committed a heinous crime, the truth is absolutely stunning. Harlan’s crimes are completely unrelated to Nick’s and surprisingly, he is a very sympathetic character despite his participation in Nick’s twisted plan.
While As Night Falls is not a traditional whodunit, there are numerous secrets to uncover and Jenny Milchman masterfully keeps readers off balance with a number of unexpected plot twists. Cleverly written with plenty of action, this riveting novel poses some very thought-provoking questions about what drives a person to commit acts of violence. A very intriguing high octane thriller that fans of the genre do not want to miss.