The Quiet Tenant
The Quiet Tenant is a bold, gripping thriller that I found hard to put down, and I suspect this one will prey on my mind for some time. There’s a haunting quality to it, an eerie, ever-growing sense of malice that surrounds and almost suffocates you with claustrophobic vibes. My advice to other readers is to go into it without reading any spoilers as I did, allowing yourself to experience it first-hand.
Aidan Thomas is a well-liked, friendly, helpful man who’s admired by his friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, it’s all a facade, a veneering that hides a dark and evil side. In truth, Aidan is a serial kidnapper and killer who’s responsible for the death of eight women and is holding his ninth victim in a shed behind his house. Rachel was kidnapped five years ago and knows she’s presumed dead. Her desire to live, however, is strong and readers will learn she’s not as complacent and brainwashed as Aidan believes. She’s learned a few things about manipulation over her years of captivity and does what’s necessary to survive. When Aidan’s forced to move with his thirteen-year-old daughter Cecelia to another residence, Rachel gently nudges him into deciding to take her along, introducing her as his old friend and new tenant. Rachel now has the opportunity to interact with Cecelia for brief periods of time when Aidan lets her out of her room. Cecelia adores her father, but she’s Rachel’s only chance at freedom. Does she dare tell Cecelia the truth, or will it be signing her own death certificate? Meantime, Aidan is courting his next victim Emily who is smitten with the handsome widower. The story that ensues is a dark, emotional, heart-pounding masterpiece.
The Quiet Tenant is a bit unusual in structure and delivery, switching between narratives from chapter to chapter and multiple points of view. At first, it feels a bit choppy or disconnected, but as the story takes off the sharp prose and short chapters are highly effective at building tension and trepidation in characters and readers. Michallon takes time to set the scene with a steadily increasing pace driven by a malevolent tone that grows darker page by page. Points of view include Rachel, Cecelia and Emily, affording readers intimate knowledge of each woman’s thoughts and views of the truth as they know it. Rachel’s perspective is particularly disturbing as one might expect as she begins pushing boundaries seeking a way out of her never-ending nightmare, and the author does an outstanding job of relaying her desperation while keeping a small spark of hope alive. It’s easy for readers to question her choices at times; however, no one can really know the psychological impact of having been held captive for so long with the fear of death looming every single day unless you’ve been there. All characterizations are brilliantly rendered, multi-layered and believable. Through twists and turns, the author manipulates readers and characters towards an ending most won’t see coming.
The Quiet Tenant is a dark, gritty, highly disturbing thriller that’s sure to haunt my nights for some time. Beyond being a fantastic thriller, this story speaks volumes about a woman’s strength and will to live and survive the trauma and psychological aftermath of such a horrific ordeal. It’s an amazing story of the feats possible when women bond together to stand as one against abuse. While The Quiet Tenant is a somber read, I love that it’s also a story of hope and survival. Highly recommended to fans of psychological thrillers and so-called “women’s fiction” because this is a story highlighting the many strengths of women, both individually and together. I found The Quiet Tenant to be an impressive debut from author Clemence Michallon.
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