Little Red House
After devouring another of Liv Andersson’s novels, reading a second book seemed inevitable. Anderson effectively develops from the opening pages and builds the momentum to the point the reader will be flipping pages well into the night. A young woman runs away from home in 1997, disappearing into thin air and leaving her mother on the hunt to locate her.
Years later, Eve Foster passes on without ever having found her daughter, dividing her estate between her twin daughters. One gets the money and local property, while the other is offered a small house in New Mexico. This property could be an asset, but there’s something about it that will leave its new owner wishing she’d never laid eyes on it. Andersson dazzles as she creates a powerful psych thriller.
Eve Foster has her hands full with her teenage daughter, Kelsey. After Kelsey runs away to New Mexico and vanishes in 1997, Eve is unsure what she ought to do. Making her way across the country, Eve begins her search, though the cops have little interest in another runaway teen. Eve must rely on her motherly instincts, which are activated when she learns of a number of other teen girls have gone missing. There’s a niggling feeling in Eve that Kelsey has fallen into the hands of a serial killer, something else no one wishes to acknowledge.
Many years later, Eve has created a life for herself in Vermont, which includes twin adopted daughters. Lisa was always the favorite, while Connie received the brunt of Eve’s brutal treatment, something that neither girl can deny. When Eve passes, Lisa receives a great deal of the Vermont estate, while Connie is left with a tiny stipend and a small piece of property in New Mexico. Both women begin to assess their gifts, though Connie can only wonder if the house she now owns is a sick joke.
After arriving in New Mexico, Connie is sure that this is a ploy by Eve to get her out of the way. Connie locates the property, an old and run-down red house in the desert, in which she must now live. The property comes with a caretaker, Jet Montgomery, who lives in a small shack and refuses to engage with her any more than necessary. The rules around maintenance, upkeep, and selling are clear, which Jet follows closely, much to Connie dismay. This is making things all the more mysterious for Connie, who soon learns that the community has been shocked by a number of murdered women, though no one will speak about them. What does this New Mexico community have to hide and was Eve aware of it back when she drew up her will, thereby sending Connie into danger?
As the story progresses, the two narratives develop, one with Eve searching for Kelsey in 1997, while the other has Connie trying to make sense of the community’s hushed silence and how it might tie into her mother’s last cruel act. It is only when Connie discovers that a serial killer has been haunting the area that the connection seems cemented. Connie is forced to finish what Eve never did in the hunt for Kelsey all those years ago. Someone has been targeting women and letting the blame rest with two Black men, incarcerated for a crime they did not commit. When Lisa begins being haunted as well, Connie is sure that Eve is somehow tied into everything. Will Connie get the needed answers or become another target of a killer who has been mastering their trade for decades? Andersson provides a stellar story for readers, adding a psychological angle that only adds to the intensity.
I recently discovered the work of Liv Andersson and could not put down the first novel I tried. This book is just as exciting, though also dark, as any good psych thriller ought to be. Andersson develops a strong narrative from the beginning, writing on two timelines to keep the reader paying attention. The two storylines appear only loosely connected until there is a definite merge and soon the twists appear. Strong characters pepper the story, though the protagonists’ development is key to the story’s success. Eve and Connie provide strong contrasting development tracks, as both are struggling for answers, even if one is living in the horrible shadow of the other. The plot twists develop with some ease, with moments the reader might not be able to easily differentiate between 1997 and present day. It is the emergence of a major plot twist in the latter stages that truly defines the book’s greatest as a psychological thriller. Andersson weaves a story that is full of murder, darkness, and some treachery, keeping the attentive reader shocked on multiple occasions. I can only hope there will be more books in this vein before too long.
Kudos, Madam Andersson, for captivating me and proving an entertaining reading experience.
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