Happy hump day, bibliophiles! If you are in North America and in sweltering heat with no air-conditioning…know that I am with you in spirit and manifesting a break in these terrifying weather patterns soon. Climate change is real y’all, but that’s a conversation for another time. I’ve currently got a bunch of ARC review drafts waiting to be posted so today I bring you the first of many: The Stalker by Sarah Alderson.
It was meant to be the perfect escape…
Newly-weds Liam and Laura are spending their honeymoon in paradise: just the two of them on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
But they soon discover that all is not as it seems, and the island has a tragic past. And they can’t shake the feeling of being watched…
When one morning, they wake to find a message scratched into the window, their worst fears are confirmed. They aren’t alone on the island. And this stranger wants them dead.
…but it became the perfect nightmare.
Overall rating: 3/5
Genre: Psychological thriller
Read if you loved: The Searcher by Tana French, The Guest List by Lucy Foley, The End of Her by Shari Lapena
Content warnings: Depression, stalking (all content warnings not included due to risk of spoilers; there are some very disturbing scenes so if you are sensitive to this content, reach out to me and I can provide you with more information)
You guys, I think thrillers just aren’t my thing anymore. They feel so repetitive and at this point, I get more “thrill” from other genres…is it just me? This is one of those books too – it’s perfectly fun to read, don’t get me wrong – but could I have seen every single twist coming? Pretty much. And it falls prey to the typical downfalls/issues that I have with thrillers, so allow me to explain.
First, the good, because there is a lot of good. I’m a sucker for a haunted/creepy/abandoned island trope when it comes to any book. It usually means that the story will be highly atmospheric, which is the case here. Alderson’s writing transports you to a Scottish island and casts on it every plot device that you would expect given the setting (yes, of course there is a storm). This all lends very nicely to creating that suspense factor that these thrillers thrive on; there were even a few moments veered towards horror and had my heart racing. Another cool and unexpected part of this book is the alternative perspective – we experience this story through the eyes of one of the main characters (Laura, the wife) as well as the stalker. Those interludes are very unsettling, and played a big role in reeling me into the story.
So what’s the problem? I’ve read so many other books like this. And I know one could argue this for other genres as well but something about thrillers feels particularly formulaic to me. Besides the predictability, there is another commonly observed (by me) issue in the genre. In order to create these twists and turns, I often feel that these types of books purposefully omit information in order to surprise readers. Obviously this is a standard device across genres and makes a lot of sense, but in thrillers, it can feel more contrived. The big “reveal” at the end does not make sense given the characters’ behavior and sequence of events that take place prior to the climax.
Overall, if you like thrillers, I think you’ll enjoy this! At this point, the genre might just not be for me because they tend to be my lowest rated books and well, I should pay attention to the pattern. I did finish this book in one day so it’s very quick if you’re looking for a weekend read! Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Stalker is out on July 8th!