Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 09/04/2014
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
A lingering, compulsive debut novel that will keep you tightly in its grip. What would you do if a young girl knocked on your door and asked for your help? If it was snowing and she was freezing cold, but you were afraid and alone? What would you do if you let her in, but couldn't make her leave?What if she told you terrible lies about someone you love, but the truth was even worse?
Stella has been cocooned in her home for three years. Severely agoraphobic, she knows she is safe in the stark, isolated house she shares with her husband, Max. The traumatic memories of her final case as a psychologist are that much easier to keep at a distance, too.But the night that Blue arrives on her doorstep with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Stella's carefully controlled world begins to unravel around her.
DON’T STAND SO CLOSE, by Luana Lewis is a compelling psychological drama of cat and mouse, when two worlds collide for an intriguing, suspense filled novel, teetering on the lines of ethics, control, trust, and morality.
On a cold snowy night in London, Stella, a recluse is at home alone waiting for her husband Max to return. A knock on her door, a young girl outside insisting she is stuck in the snowstorm and wants to come inside and will not leave. In spite of her agoraphobia and fears, and need for privacy, Stella allows the girl, named Blue to enter. When inside, the girl tells all sorts of lies initially. Stella insists she call her parents to let them know she is safe, or she will call the police.
Blue does not want her to call the police and refuses to go home. She wants to speak with Max (Stella’s husband). First Blue claims to be Max’s daughter, then she changes her story and says Max is her doctor, and later claims she is in love with him. Blue is definitely a troubled girl. Stella is concerned she is a runaway, so she calls Peter, the police and her ex-boyfriend. Peter does some investigating and finds there is a girl missing, fitting the description, with a different name. What comes next, is Stella’s worst nightmare. She does not know whom to believe. Max or Blue?
Switching back and forth from with flashbacks to an earlier time when Stella worked for Max as a successful psychologist. She was involved with a case and the assessment of a man’s suitability (Lawrence Simpson) to attain the custody of his daughter. There was much controversy regarding this case, as the man at the time tried to convince everyone his wife was an alcoholic and not fit to raise their daughter. Simpson needs Stella to agree with him in order to attain custody.
However, one night in her office, his evil side surfaced which brought about traumatic events which led her to be a recluse, move in with her boss, later marry him, PTSD, and live a sheltered life, in a fuzz of pills supplied by her husband, Max.
Now, here is a very disturbed and beautiful young woman in her house. Blue has a sexual fixation of her therapist. What is Stella to do, especially when she finds out Max may not be the man she thinks he is?
I really enjoyed this absorbing suspense novel, as some other reviewers have mentioned, it was not fast paced, as a normal thriller. However, this pace was imperative in order to build the backstory of each character, with intrigue and mystery. (For me, the pace intensified the suspense). Slowly the reader begins to wonder how these stories will fit together, what is true, what is fantasy, what will bring these stories and troubled characters to this point? You are hanging on every word to learn the fate and which way Stella will go.
To further intensify, when we learn of the blackmail of a past deed which was used to discredit any testimony – there is fear, control, power, and vulnerability. Now, some of this same fear, Stella sees in Blue. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narrator Julia Barrie, an outstanding performance; with her soft British accent for a perfectly paced tale of damaged personalities, with more in common than they may know.
What I loved about the overall novel was Stella’s character. Readers slowly learn how a recluse was formerly a vibrant, intelligent, and successful professional psychologist. However, even under the influence and haze of a variety of drugs and alcohol to cope with daily life, and nightmares of the past; Stella actually shows strength when faced with hard decisions of leaving the house and her security-reaching out for help, and stepping out bravely to face a scary world in order to face her past, and bring justice for herself and others.
An absorbing debut novel, nicely developed and well-executed! The author’s background most definitely lends itself to great insight into the characters and subject matter. Look forward to reading more from this talented author, Luana Lewis!