Though this book is based on a trope (e.g. disgraced journalist moves to a small town where no one knows her shame) and is hard to follow at times, it was a fantastic read. Because this was written in first-person and stayed on the same person (which takes much more skill), I was able to connect with Leah in a way I haven’t connected with other female protagonists. So, even though this book’s plot may have been a bit convoluted, it had a character whose personality, even whose college life experience, made me think of my own: being the editor of the college newspaper (which led to her career in journalism), living on scholarships, and working periodic jobs on campus to bridge the difference. Leah also talked about the shock of not getting the job she’d applied for, for she’d never failed before–which often happens when you apply yourself in college, only to discover that the real working world smacks you upside the head.
The Perfect Stranger revolves around Leah getting reattached to a mysterious girl she roomed with for a few months in college eight years ago–a girl who disappears just as mysteriously as she reappeared.
The backstory was intriguing; Miranda should write a follow-up on this “story within a story” mentioned on p. 147: A Season of Suicides: 4 Girls Take Their Lives at Local College–Is Anyone Listening? This headline reminded me of this rash of suicides at Savannah College of Art and Design: https://www.change.org/p/counseling-and-student-support-services-improve-mental-heath-at-scad. What’s more, there needs to be another book in which Leah goes back to Boston, clears her name, and solves another [similar] case in the process.
Leah is more than a reporter; she’s an amateur sleuth who solves the mystery that is her life–a reliable narrator with poor judgment who was just trying to stay under the radar. She is an incredibly flawed character who is flawed in a way that still makes her sympathetic. She made an interesting point about how cops lie to get the truth, except you can’t do that because it would be considered libel (whereas cops just hurl accusations in an interrogation room with security cameras). She is a classic example of a person who does all the wrong things for the right reasons. As her mother says, Rebecca [Leah’s sister] helps the ones who can be saved, and Leah gives a voice to those who cannot. How ironic it is that Leah cannot find her own voice until the end.
This book is an atmospheric, modern-day noir, complete with the hard-boiled cop who falls for the femme fatale–where no one is who they say they are or even pretend to be. I was transfixed everytime Leah uncovered another piece of the puzzle that was Emmy. The one piece, however, that didn’t make any sense was why a woman would take the fall for another woman with the flimsy promise that she would give her a new life. Couldn’t the free woman, being just as criminal-minded, just disappear?
Despite that stretch in logic, this book was a real page-turner, though it was also one I would only read again to figure out what I missed.