I can’t possibly be the only one who struggles with this…can I?
Leaving the library with upwards of 10 new books in my bag is a weekly high like no other. The wide-open possibilities are intoxicating. I can sense it now, by proxy, just writing about it.
I get home.
And then…I come down hard.
I draw a book from the bag. The main character in this right-up-my-alley mystery makes a totally ridiculous choice – abandon. Draw another. That juicy non-fiction biomedical expose starts losing it’s juice after Chapter 2 – gone. The next. The middle grade fiction that I chose (again) and tried (again) still isn’t working for me – see ya. And on it goes – book after book, once so full of promise and hype, becomes another notch on my Goodreads DNF shelf.
There is usually one good apple in the bunch – one book that I read AND finish. On a good week, I find two. I re-read old favorites when necessary. The rest get put back, forlornly, in the library bag and returned. I go through so much of this trying on that it is what I now expect. Does the librarian think I read all of those books? I hope she’s on to me, because then I would know that I am not alone.
The Party by Elizabeth Day employs many familiar literary devices of suspense – the unstable outsider surrounded by privilege, the unnamed secrets that bind characters together, a plot revealed through multiple epistolary viewpoints, an unreliable narrator – but Day deftly utilizes these in refreshing and unexpected ways. The comparisons to other recent works of literary suspense, particularly Gone Girl and The Talented Mr. Ripley, are unavoidable, but I hope these do not deter potential readers who might expect more of the same. I promise: this one is different.
I found the primary vehicle of suspense to be reminiscent of Big Little Lies – mainly, something has happened and now the reader will be taken between time periods and perspectives to get the answers. I have been disappointed more than once with recent popular suspense setups, but not here. Day’s writing is crisp and her pacing is even. Her character development is so good that both Martin, a creepy sociopath, and his damaged, subservient wife, Lucy, are sympathetic without the use of reader manipulation. The innermost thoughts of Martin are particularly chilling, and Day’s employment of The Art of War as a guide in Martin’s pursuit of Ben’s friendship is a masterful choice. Readers will certainly become impatient for the resolution (this reader certainly did) but this sense of urgency only underscores the author’s writing talents. The Party is a page-turner of the highest, creepiest order.
I was provided an advance reader copy by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.