A Flicker In The Dark – Stacy Willingham

Published January 11th, 2021

What a sizzling and scintillating debut!

Chloe Davis has been trying to escape her demons since the tender age of 12. See, this is the year that six young women went missing…and one man was deemed guilty for their disappearances. The one man a girl should ALWAYS be able to depend on…Chloe’s own father. From the minute he is put behind bars, life isn’t the same for Chloe and brother Cooper, who cannot escape the ominous cloud of mystery that hovers over them in their tiny Louisiana town. The two struggle to move towards a new normal and Chloe’s mother never quite recovers, carrying a unique burden all her own.

Twenty years have passed and Chloe is deeply embedded in her ‘new’ life. Swoony and safe Daniel has come into her world, and the two are due to be married any day. Chloe is a psychologist now, putting her struggles aside to help others, and one day a teen girl comes to her practice who reminds Chloe of her own teenage self. Is it fate that the two should meet? Flickers of her past quickly ignite into a flame she can’t ignore when the very same girl she counseled turns up missing…just like so many years before. These echoes become a roar that even Chloe’s pills can’t drown out, and when the killer’s actions mirror her father a little TOO closely and a journalist comes a-calling, Chloe starts to question how her father’s reach could extend through prison bars and out into the real world…and exactly how well does she know Daniel? Why are so many patches of her own memory hazy? And could she be so much CLOSER to the crimes than she ever imagined?

My expectations were pretty high coming into this read, but the premise hooked me and I got easily caught in the web of Chloe’s thoughts, which at times was a pretty tangled jumble. Willingham tied past and present together in a clever fashion, straying from the “Now” and “Then” format so many thriller writers lean on and instead having Chloe’s flashbacks or memories appear mid-paragraph, leaving the reader even more baffled as to fact vs. fiction and of course, never knowing whether or not to trust Chloe as a narrator. Add in the requisite pill-popping and muddled thinking, and Chloe’s tale wound every which way, leaving me scratching my head at times and FRANTICALLY flipping pages. This is the first book in a while that I’ve been compelled to pick up (and the first I’ve finished in 3 days in a while as well!) so that’s the hallmark of addictive, keeps-you-guessing writing. I was so sure this would be a 5 star read for me and it nearly was

UNTIL I realized I had guessed the ending…from quite early on, surprisingly (most of all to me!)

This is not to say that Willingham doesn’t hide the truth fairly well, because I think she did a fantastic job, and although my hunch was correct, that didn’t stop me from taking a journey down every open ended path she presented and questioning my instincts over and over. Do some plot elements fall a little too neatly into place? Sure. But I didn’t mind that aspect too much, and I was able to suspend my disbelief without feeling too disappointed.

This book is a little bit serial killer exposition, a little bit unreliable narrator psychological thriller, and a whole LOT of exciting and thrilling writing sure to put Stacy Willingham on the map in the genre. I am already excited for her next book and would wholeheartedly recommend this read to thriller buffs new and old (although newbies might be a bit more shocked by the ending.)

If from a tiny spark may burst a mighty flame…then Willingham is poised to set the genre ABLAZE! 🔥

4 stars, rounded down from 4.5

Many thanks to NetGalley, Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press, and Stacy Willingham for an ARC of this book!

#NetGalley #AFlickerInTheDark #bookreview #Booktwt @svwillingham @MinotaurBooks

2021 Year In Review!

2021 on Goodreads by Various

Unlike last year, I am bound and determined to actually complete my year-end review this year, so…

Here’s the good, the incredible, and the most promising new authors of 2021!!

🥇 5 Star Reads published in 2021 (in alphabetical order) :

Beautiful Country-this poignant memoir from Qian Julie Wang is probably the best and most engrossing I’ve ever read in the genre. Relatable, raw, and beautifully penned.
my review 🌎

Dark Horses-if you thought My Dark Vanessa was dark…this heart-wrenching and tragic work of literary fiction takes it to another level. A stunning debut from Susan Mihalic!
my review 🐴

Every Last Fear-this thrilling debut from Alex Finlay starts with the phrase “They found the bodies on a Tuesday.”…and doesn’t let up until the very last page! my review 🧵🪕

For Your Own Good-Samantha Downing wows again! Does the phrase Homicide High mean anything to you? It will once you finish this trip into dark academia–and make sure you finish your milk! my review 🥛

The Good Sister-The queen of domestic suspense strikes gold with this book about sisters…but is this a standard case of one good and one evil twin? Or could there be something more?? my review 👭

Rock Paper Scissors-is it any surprise an Alice Feeney book got 5 stars from me? This is a twisty tale of a marriage on the ‘rocks’ 😉that will knock your socks off! my review

You’d Be Home Now-my favorite YA read of the year, this one tackles the subject of the opioid epidemic and how it affects a brother and sister–a surprisingly emotional and well-researched read! my review 💊

🥇A late-to-the-party 5 star read published prior to 2021
Jar of Hearts-so glad I made time to finally pick up this scintillating tale about a serial killer, his friends, and the girl who ties them all together…and might be next to go! my review 🔪

🥇4.5 star reads published in 2021…just shy of 5 stars, but all fantastic!
Broken-Jenny Lawson’s third book was the winner of Goodreads 2021 book of the year awards in the humor category…and if you read it, you’ll see why! A seamless blend of mental health discussion and laugh-till-your-stomach hurts comedy from the Bloggess. my review 😂

Dark Roads-the long awaited next book from Chevy Stevens deals with the Lost Girls from a dangerous highway in fictional Cold Creek…this one has my favorite epilogue of the year (and possibly ever!) my review 👻

Fault Lines-this poignant and lyrically written literary fiction debut tells the story of Mizuki, a housewife wondering if her past is really behind her when a new stranger takes her out of her role as wife and mother…perhaps for good? my review 🌺

Instructions for Dancing-Nicola Yoon is back with a magical, lovely, and heartbreaking tale of two dance partners, one of whom has a very specific and interesting gift. my review 💃

No One Will Miss Her-another wowza of a debut, this time from Kat Rosenfield, where our protagonist Lizzie wants to tell you HER side of the story of her life…from beyond the grave. my review 🍁

The Perfect Family-Robyn Harding’s band of Crazy Characters kept me glued to the pages in this story of a family who ALL have secrets…and might all be in danger…even from one another! my review🏠

The Plot-my first from Jean Hanff Korelitz, a sneaky and page-turning story about the book that almost wasn’t…until a new author decides to ‘borrow’ and publish it…with disastrous consequences! my review 📕

The Wife Upstairs-my first intro to Rachel Hawkins, this new spin on Jane Eyre kept my mind reeling and the pages flipping! my review 🆙

🥈 A couple of honorable mentions:
Do No Harm-this book also tackles the opioid epidemic, but from a different angle: what would you do if they only way you could save your child was to become PART of the drug world? my review 💵

Wish You Were Here-the only COVID book I’ve read, and Picoult shows up with a trademark twist determined to toss everything you THOUGHT you knew out the window! my review 🌅

If you’re still with me…a huge THANK YOU to all of the amazing book friends I have made and get to chat with all year long! 2021 was a big year for me, becoming a mom and finally moving back to NY with my husband, and this community has been there for me through it all. The friendships I have made mean the world to me, and I cannot wait to keep chatting books and life with all of you! 😊

That being said, I’m also happy to announce I am finally starting my Bookstagram, Twitter, and book blog, Alternatively Titled Books, where I will post reviews and come up with punny and fun titles for the books I read (when the mood strikes!) and will be posting more bookish content there as well. If you’d like to follow along, here are my links!

Twitter: @alttitledbooks
Instagram: @alternativelytitledbooks
Blog: Blog

Happy Reading to all in 2022! Thanks for being the best book friends I could ask for! 🥂📚💕 ~Cat

View all my reviews