The Night Before by Lisa Jackson


Pros: Well-developed characters in a very thrilling mystery, with lots of surprises.

Cons: Is there a law that every thriller must contain a romance-even if completely inappropriate?

It held my attention, as I stayed up too late, turning the pages to see how it would all work out.  I’d guessed part of the story early on, but I sure didn’t guess it all!  I’m talking about Lisa Jackson’s The Night Before, a multi-layered thriller that takes “Who Done It” to a new level.

Caitlyn Bandeaux is having an awful morning.  She awakes to discover herself, indeed her entire bedroom, covered in blood.  The problem is, she has no memory of how it happened.  In fact, her memories of the entire previous night are like Swiss cheese.  Perhaps her twin sister, Kelly, can help her piece it all together?  The problem is, Kelly’s not returning any of her calls.  Still, confused, she’s further upset when the police inform her that her estranged husband has been found dead – stabbed multiple times.

Caitlyn keeps quiet about the blood, as well as the recurring nightmares she’s been having – vivid dreams that seem to match her husband’s crime scene.  But before she has the time to really figure out what’s happening, more bodies turn up.  And more evidence points to her, even though she continues to have no real memories of the incidents.

Luckily, there’s a new psychologist in town.  Maybe he can help Caitlyn figure out what’s going on.  Except we, the readers, know that Adam’s not all that he seems to be.  He has lots of secrets of his own.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.  A sympathetic woman who is being tortured by her own subconscious.  By dreams that make no sense, and by multiple people telling her lies.  It gets to the point where she really has no idea whom to trust.

The suspense builds as we are privy to some of what’s going on, but definitely not to all of it.  We’re given glimpses of an evil mind, someone who kills and tortures victims.  But we don’t know why they do it.  And for a very long time, we don’t really know who’s doing it.  Every character becomes a suspect at some point in the book, as the author purposely leads us down several paths, allowing us to pick our favorite.  My own mind changed several times as I was reading, trying to figure out the ultimate conclusion.

I thought the suspense factor was terrific in this book, as well as the thrills.  The murders are unbelievably frightening, as the victims meet their fate one by one.  Terror was definitely rampant in this book!

There are also flashbacks to events in the past that add to the chilling nature of the book.  Caitlyn’s family closet is so full of skeletons, it’s a wonder there’s room for clothes in there!  The quick flashbacks are written perfectly – they add details to the current mystery, but they’re not so long and boring that they bog down the story.

The main characters were very well-defined, as points of view shifted so we got to “know” all of the major players: Caitlyn, her family, Adam, and the detectives working the case.

But the book had its flaws, too.

First there was running gag throughout the book involving one of the detectives. She’s trying to clean up her filthy mouth, by forcing herself to pay a quarter every time she curses.  But she’s not really changing her ways – she’s just spending a fortune.  By the end of the book, she could fund her children’s colleges with the money she’s paid out.  It was a cute side story the first 17 times it was played out, after that it got tiresome.

Then there’s the obligatory romance angle, that seems to be a requirement in every thriller ever written.  In this case, the romance is completely inappropriate.  I can’t believe that any reader would “root” for the two people involved – to me it was a complete waste, and an actual detriment to the story.

Lastly, there’s a scene of animal abuse that really wasn’t necessary.  I hate reading about malicious harm done to animals!

Still, this was a very enjoyable book, one that’s sure to hold your attention, and perhaps keep you up past your bedtime.

Also by Lisa Jackson:

Almost Dead
Never Die Alone
Wicked Game
Wicked Ways

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