By: Galt Niederhoffer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 11/21/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)
Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream.
Their family, including Cass' two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Seattle—a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly.
First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.
With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.
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From the author of The Romantics, the Indie director-producer Galt Niederhoffer’s slow-burning highly anticipated and riveting high-stakes psychological domestic thriller, POISON centers around a seemingly perfect marriage that turns deadly, when journalist, Cass Connor begins to suspect her dazzling architect husband, Ryan is trying to kill her.
C H I L L I N G !
Similar to Gaslight, the popular noir film; and even more shocking— inspired by the author’s own personal nightmare (very intriguing). In 2016 a court battle over custody and accusing her own high-profile ex-boyfriend of poisoning her with arsenic, making headlines.
Presently, POISON has been optioned for a scripted TV series by Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content... Hollywood Reporter (read more below).
This is one I am dying to see and look forward to the cast of stars! Predict will be hotter than Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train.
There is a lot to discuss further here:
In addition, the novel addresses some highly-charged topics ripped from today’s headlines. More importantly how violence, threats, and patterns are viewed.
However, by coming forward with knowledge of a crime, women are scrutinized. They need protection, yet get thrown to the wolves. Brutalized, while being ravaged by violence. In turn, the attacker is rewarded.
A broken legal system.
Victims are made to appear suicidal, paranoid, delusional, jealous, mentally ill, a danger to herself, her children, or simply revengeful. A simple reporting of a crime, and conspiracy to commit murder. However, the tables are turned.
A hot button question in today’s world and decades past. How many women must report a crime before the crime is believed?
“Victims have two options: to be believed or dismissed. Deemed credible or crazy. A credible or unreliable witness.”
“An outraged victim, wrongly accused, dismissed, disgraced, ripped from her children. A woman, charged and criminalized, tried without due process. No burden of proof. An innocent, a victim sentenced for reporting a crime. All of this filtered through a feminist lens. But most of all, it the story of every woman’s fight for survival, a mother on a quest for her children.”
A tactic to destroy the credibility of his victim and witness. Obscure his crime by attacking the victim.
Cassandra (Cass) and Ryan have three children (two from Cass’s former relationship). The family of five relocate cross-country from Brooklyn to a Seattle suburb, Madrona. Married three years. She is a journalist with a strong journalist instinct.
Ryan, a powerful, sexy, charming, architect. A so-called loving father and husband turn into a monster. Her father also suffered from narcissism. Her mother did not care for Ryan.
The Connor family. All goes along smoothly. The daily rotation of domestic life rolls on, as with any perfect machine, until a circuit breaks and the machine ceases to function.
Had Cass overlooked her husband’s troubled past? His sexual appetite and preferences. Eaten alive by the lies her husband?
Cass, age 40 becomes sick after confronting her husband of cheating and his constant travel. He loves to turn the tables on any argument. She was married twice before (one deceased and divorced).
At the University of Washington, she has a classroom of aspiring journalists and students. She happens to be discussing “Reporting on the Female Witness.” Destroying the female witness.
The oldest defense is “she is crazy.” They quote The Crosby case. They blame the victim. A familiar tactic in every rape case. Misogyny.
However, little does Cass know soon she will have the first-hand experience. The family appeared perfect on the outside. Quite different on the inside. Ryan has chosen the perfect crime and the perfect weapon.
When conducting an internet search, the symptoms appear to be poisoning. Heavily intoxicated against her will. Drugged without her knowledge. Who will believe her? In the meantime, Ryan is having an affair. He becomes more sinister and violent. There are more clues. Poison in her system. A pattern of abuse.
Poison used with intent to harm. Trapped in a cage of her husband’s design that extends far beyond anything she could have imagined.
She is being poisoned. Nausea, dizziness, vomiting, pain, bleeding, hair falling out. Similar to patients who are taking chemo. Who will believe her? Toxins in the home, sheets, food, and other sinister acts. They were joint tenants on the deed to the house which means if she dies, he gets the house. Of course, if he can prove her insane or suicidal, he gets custody.
“Arsenic is unique in its dualistic nature, its capacity both to heal, to act as a cure or a killer. In small does, it has a medicinal effect. At higher levels, it transforms from helpful to fatal. It is an example, perhaps more than any other substance, of the inextricable relationship between medicine and poison, endowed with both the power to revive and to destroy, to giveth and to taketh. Like two sides of the same coin, or the cruelest lover.”
. . . “The strangest thing about arsenic is the way it flips from medicinal to toxic. It is Dr. Jekyll, then Mr. Hyde. A personality split between its capacity to do good and evil. . . from an angel of life to an angel of death in a hot minute.”
Much like her husband.
A house once her haven is now her very own crime scene. She has one friend, Nora a real estate broker. They met when she sold them their home. She needs help.
In order, to protect a child, Cass as to pull off a seamless bait and switch. When the legal, health, or law enforcement system does not protect, it forces a woman to take matters into her own hands.
Snow him, and seduce him. He does not love her. He wants to kill her. She needs more evidence. She has to risk danger in order to protect herself and her children. A man who has the power to weaken her defenses.
HE is her poison. A bed that promised restoration is now a torture chamber. A meal that offered sustenance is now a possible vessel for poison.
The only question is the dose at which he is fatal. Her lover. Her tormentor. She must overcome conflicted goals; the desire to run from him, to protect herself from his danger, the impulse to run to him, collapse into his arms and the need to destroy him.
She has to catch him in the act of her own murder. Proof of the crime. Witnesses. Physical evidence.
Will he stop? Can she trust him? A war in which losing is death and winning is safety for her children. A trusting marriage finds new stakes on the age-old issue: happiness or homicide, confidant or killer?
A fake (fraud) nanny, Marley. A neighbor, Aaron who is not as he appears. The source of the toxin. A family who turns against her. Betrays her. A husband who attempts to kill her. A system which does not support her. A fatal attack on her own credibility. A murderer supported.
Insanity? The motive for revenge. A wife reported her husband’s crime, but the wife, not the husband was sentenced.
Four ways to discredit a woman: Delusion. Fabrication. Inculpation. Criminalization. Four failproof ways to destroy the testimony of a victim— when a victim is a woman.
The contradictions. Hatred and love. Fear and desire. Loathing and yearning. Twist the facts. Shift the blame.
A two-year-old son. Still breastfeeding less than two months ago. Now both parents fighting for custody. Two other children sent to live with grandparents.
The terror of being the object of her husband’s hatred. Threats to kill her. A crime with no evidence other than hearsay. Time is not on her side. There is only one option: she must use her own devices to protect herself and her children.
She faces a throng of opposing forces on this subject: rage compels her to hurt him back, to deprive him of the thing he wants most, their most precious shared possession, and common sense tells her is not in his right mind, that he is not competent now to be around children.
And yet her pure and weakened heart wants no revenge, no malice, and like some old broken toy, years to make him happy.
Why does a woman stay a day with a man she knows is capable of violence? #WhyIStayed
To prove a crime, not unlike rape, a crime with no witnesses, the only proof that it did occur, the victim’s bruises, trauma, terror, and, if she’s lucky, her attacker’s semen. An attacker warps an act of love into an act of violence. Except here the semen is poison.
No need for a smoking gun. Cass swallowed the bullet. Will Cass find the strength to protect her children and wage this war?
“Killers forget that when they fail, they train their insurrection.”
Liars like to brag. They love attention. Love-hate relationships. . . . “Liars are storytellers first and foremost, and a story without an audience is a tree falling in a forest.”
The author’s writing is precise and flawless. Due to the premise (the author’s first-hand experience), the details are raw and full of passion and emotion.
Some reviewers state there is more telling and narrative than dialogue. Being that this book could have been written as a memoir or non-fiction (however, due to any whistleblower story, that cannot be done) legally; and must be fictional, while paralleling close to the real truth.
In doing so, possibly the author is very close to the topic at hand, so the humor and additional fictional dialogue are not present i.e. husband’s POV.
Say for example, books such as: Best Day Ever (Kaira Ruba) – also a psychopathic husband poisoning his wife, and Behind Closed Doors (B.A. Paris), Emma In the Night (Wendy Walker), and Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) there comes more banter and dialogue between the two and crosses over to the sarcastic witty side, or includes secondary sideline stories and other characters.
Whereas, with POISON (a more serious tone). More of a "telling" from a woman’s point of view how a perfect life unraveling by someone close to her, and at the same time there is no support when attempting to attain justice from the system. In-depth feelings and emotions. Broken trust. A story for women, about women. The author shines here.
Cass' role as wife, and mother is the focus. This is a strong and intelligent woman. How it all unravels from perfection to hell. Demonstrates this happens to women from all social classes. There is not a husband’s POV. Whereas other psychological thrillers may go into more detail of the deranged husband and his background. (however, highlighted here).
Thought-provoking! Why so many women do not come forward until there are others to support the actions, lest to be shut down and demoralized. An ideal book club choice.
In our society today, this rings true. Similar to rape or domestic abuse. There is a twisting of the truth by the opposition and therefore discourages women from coming forward. The proof.
You have to be almost dead or the killer caught in the act. The witness? In this case, there is another burden of truth, who is actually putting the toxins in the food, which further complicates the motive.
Like so many women (and whistleblowers), you are forced to stay in the relationship or job, in order to attain more evidence or proof due to the way our court system is unfairly designed.
POISON is realistic, gripping, and haunting. A cautionary tale. (The book reminded me of my psycho-ex husband and our nightmare trip to Bermuda). Ironic, it was Bermuda here as well.
"I wanted to write a book where the suspense is fueled both by the peril of the protagonist and by the judgment of the community," Niederhoffer said. "It's a story about a whistleblower, and the ways a community can discount, dismiss and demonize — shoot the messenger — when she reports violence before believing a woman's word."
Masterfully done! Great passages, and superb writing; bookmarked many pages. Loved: The friend, the drying cleaning clue, the second phone ("Robinhood" for jilted housewives) – an edgy and crafty twist.
Highly Recommend for those who enjoy intelligent and entertaining domestic suspense focused on women. For fans of Big Little Lies, would love to see Nichole Kidman or Shailene Woodley cast as Cass, and evil, Alexander Skarsgård as Ryan. Oh, and please sneak in Iain Armitage as one of the children.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
Also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Hillary Huber for an entertaining and engrossing performance.
Nov Top Reads
Niederhoffer is the author of four novels, including Taxonomy of Barnacles and The Romantics, which she adapted and directed for the screen with Katie Holmes and Anna Paquin starring. She has produced more than 20 films, including Infinitely Polar Bear, Robot and Frank and the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right.
Silverman, former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment from 2007-2009 and Universal Media Studios, is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show creator and executive producer of The Office, Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty and The Tudors.Silverman's Propagate Content is currently in production on a number of series including The CW’s Charmed and Apple's first TV show, Planet of the Apps.
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About the Author
GALT NIEDERHOFFER is a writer and producer. She has written several novels, including The Romantics and Poison, and has produced over thirty indie films, twelve of which were selections and award-winners at the Sundance Film Festival. She has produced films that won the Audience Award, Screenwriting Award, Directors Award, and Cinematography Award at Sundance.
Niederhoffer has also been published in Vogue, New York Magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar. She lives in New York City. Read More