This page-turner of a thriller will have you either sighing with satisfaction at the ending or grimacing with dismay, depending on your personal worldview.
Three friends have decided to take off from the hurly-burly of New York City in order to have a girls’ weekend upstate, all while nursing wounding sorrows. Diana is hiding from her stalker ex Brandon, while our two viewpoint characters, Sam and Margaret, are mourning the ends of their own marriages. Sam’s husband left her for his own needy ex, while Margaret’s marriage broke down irreparably after the loss of their baby. In an effort to pamper themselves and push all thought of disappointing men out of their minds, the three women embark on a road trip for a cabin in Saratoga Springs, where they’re planning to soak in a hot tub, sip wine and indulge in a lot of sheet-mask-related self-care for a few days.
Only they never reach Saratoga Springs. The key to their rental car goes missing while at a rest stop on the way, stranding the women overnight in Catskill, New York. They decide to make the most of it anyway, finding a rental to stay in and heading out to a bar, before realizing that at least some of their exes are in town, too. Sam’s encounter with her ex Harry is particularly mortifying, its aftermath the lowlight of her whole evening… until she reunites with Margaret and they realize that Diana has disappeared.
At first, the two friends figure Diana has hooked up with someone and let her phone run out of battery, but as the next day wears on, they begin to worry. The police officer they file a missing persons report with assures them that 9 times out of 10 in situations like theirs, the missing friend will sheepishly return sooner rather than later. But when a body is found in the woods behind the bar, and Sam and Margaret are brought in for questioning, it’s clear that whatever happened to Diana will have lasting repercussions that neither of them could have possibly imagined when they first embarked on what they thought would be a carefree getaway.
I had to force myself to stop reading this novel several times in order to go be a responsible adult, so seductively does Leah Konen write! I very much enjoyed the way she unwrapped the layers on her narrative, even if I found Alex’s excuses for his lies less elegant than awkwardly realistic. I was, however, impressed by the dissection of Harry’s personality. Also impressive was the way the suspense kept going right till the very end, even if I personally felt disappointed by Margaret’s choice. Tho I totally understand why she did it! I just didn’t think it was the right thing to do. But I get it! (Which string of sentences should very much be considered a plus in the novel’s favor: I do like books that challenge one’s idea of right and wrong.)
I was occasionally distracted by the stray British-isms, but overall found this solidly entertaining: a perfect little escapist thriller — that does touch sensitively on several weighty topics — for these pandemic times.
The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen was published today January 4 2022 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons and is available from all good booksellers, including