The life of a picture-perfect literary couple sours when the wife goes missing and suspicion immediately falls on the husband, exposing a home life that was anything but picturesque.
From the outside, Ethan and Sutton Montclair live the writerly dream in Franklin, Tennessee: he’s a renowned literary novelist with a sexy English accent (it should be noted that accents do not make a character) while she’s a more commercial writer. He’s also got a wandering eye that’s gotten him into trouble before. When Sutton vanishes one morning, leaving everything behind, along with a note telling Ethan not to look for her, Ethan can’t decide if she took off on her own accord or if something more sinister happened. Since the husband is always guilty, the police seem convinced early on that Ethan is responsible given the number of domestic disturbance calls to the house and the stress caused by the recent loss of the couple’s baby. Ellison (No One Knows, 2016, etc.) divides the novel roughly in two, giving the first half of the narrative to Ethan, so by the time the reader gets to Sutton’s version of events—many of which are so predictable as to read almost as parody—it’s difficult to form an unbiased opinion of the characters or to know, or truly care, about their fates. The theme of “nothing is what it seems” is taken to expected extremes, with both the Montclairs carrying secrets which are meant to be sordid and harrowing but are instead somewhat banal in a thriller universe.
Instead of a suspenseful peek into a crumbling marriage with a missing wife at the center, Ellison’s latest devolves into a mishmash of well-worn tropes carried out by even more threadbare characters.