Gone Tonight, a new thriller by Sarah Pekkanen, is the story of a mother and daughter, and all their secrets. Catherine and her mom, Ruth, don’t have any relatives because Ruth got pregnant with Catherine as a teenager, and none of her religious family wanted anything to do with her. So they’re very close, and Catherine thinks she knows everything about her mother. But as the story unfolds, Ruth’s complicated secret history comes out. I knew I’d like this one because I loved both An Anonymous Girl and You Are Not Alone, both by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.
Gone Tonight is told in alternating chapters, focusing on Catherine and then Ruth. I don’t always love the dual-narrator in thrillers. (Wait, is that 100% true? Do I dislike dual-narratives in thrillers, or do I just hate when the two stories lead to the underwhelming reveal that “Liz” in one story has been going by “Betsy” in the other one? Ugh, no.) But the format worked for me here, partly because both Catherine and Ruth’s stories are detailed and connected, and partly because it’s not played for dramatic cliffhangers at the end of every single chapter. Also, the story starts with a mother-daughter drama, so by the time our characters were in any danger, I was already invested.
I enjoyed how Ruth’s back story came out over the course of the book– Sarah Pekkanen is a master of misdirections and careful clues. So as I read, I constantly felt like I was getting hints and I was trying to piece together what had happened, which is the best feeling in a thriller.
Without revealing too much, I have to say that I just loved Ruth’s careful escape plans. I sometimes read thrillers and mentally scream NO! Turn off your phone! or NO! Everyone can see your license plate! or whatever. But Ruth’s escape plans were solid. She bought a burner phone ahead of time, had her fake IDs read to go, and readers can really see how long she’s been watchful and ready to run. Good planning, Ruth. I liked reading a thriller about a character who made a lot of smart decisions! And Catherine also knew she was in a domestic suspense, and was equally sneaky and smart. This makes great cat-and-mouse (er, cat-and-other-cat???) tension.
There’s a definite blood warning, but it’s not really gross. There’s the horror and guilt of a murder happening, and then all the lies around it, the book has a lot of dark and tense moments, but not really a gross scene.
You guys, that ending. Those last few pages. I definitely have feelings about the very last section of Gone Tonight. I have some comments about the ending of Gone Tonight, but please don’t click until you read the book, because I’m posting about the ending. Come read this AFTER you finish and see if you had the same reaction to the last few pages.
If a mother with a dark backstory and a careful escape plan to protect her daughter sounded good, try Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her as well.
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