⇒A thriller that tests what you do when you can’t trust your own mind, or heart, or anyone and anything else…⇐
**Many thanks to NetGalley, MIRA Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Author: Wendy Heard
(3.96 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Mystery / Psychological Thriller
Published December 18, 2018, by MIRA
Pages: 304 (Kindle)
I know what happened. Whether anyone believes me or not, I know.
This book won me over because of two words: Unreliable Narrator! I have read plenty of books where the narrator is untrustworthy, clinically mad, or is operating under certain delusions that cause readers to question the veracity of their storytelling. Since I’ve read so many, you’d think I wouldn’t get excited about one more. Well, you’d be wrong.
Hunting Annabelle is different. It grabbed my interest immediately. Yes, Sean Suh is a shady lead character with a dark and dangerous past (that is craftily revealed over time throughout the book), but he’s still an intriguing young man whose magnetic personality pulls in close to everything he does. He’s unique in his appearance (partially shaved head, goth-dark clothing, and black jelly bracelets crawling up his arms), but he’s also still vulnerable in so many ways. It’s easy for readers to care for him and stand in his corner even though – with every added chapter – Sean shows us all the reasons why we shouldn’t put any faith in him. At all. But before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s the Goodreads blurb…
Sean Suh is done with killing. After serving three years in a psychiatric prison, he’s determined to stay away from temptation. But he can’t resist Annabelle—beautiful, confident, incandescent Annabelle—who alone can see past the monster to the man inside. The man he’s desperately trying to be.
Then Annabelle disappears.
Sean is sure she’s been kidnapped—he witnessed her being taken firsthand—but the police are convinced that Sean himself is at the center of this crime. And he must admit, his illness has caused him to “lose time” before. What if there’s more to what happened than he’s able to remember?
Though haunted by the fear that it might be better for Annabelle if he never finds her, Sean can’t bring himself to let go of her without a fight. To save her, he’ll have to do more than confront his own demons… He’ll have to let them loose.
What I have can’t be treated. It’s just what I am. I am a predator.
On the surface, Sean is just a man in love trying to solve a mystery about an enigmatic, beautiful young woman he meets. But the story’s undercurrent involves so much more.
There’s the overbearing mother who resents Sean and his sketchy past and seems to think that the perfect combination of medication will cure a multitude of sins. And then there are the skeptical police officers who have made Sean their number one suspect in Annabelle’s disappearance, even though he’s the one that reported it. Finally, Annabelle’s own eccentric grab-bag of acquaintances and relatives lead Sean through some of the most harrowing experiences along his covert amateur investigation, only adding more layers of unpredictability to this already dubious tale. Could Sean, the corrupt ex-con end up being the only true hero in this book?
I have no plan. I’m no hero. I suppose every villain is the hero of his own story.
Wendy Heard tells Sean’s story at a steady pace. There are very few slow sections, which I greatly appreciate. Sean’s prescription drug-addled personality and his sketchy past are revealed in bits and pieces, not just regurgitated in one anticlimactic fact-finding paragraph, which readers have been made the victims of far too many times in the past in mysteries and thrillers.
And now we come full circle back to the number one reason why I enjoyed this book so much – Sean is a perfect unreliable narrator. Any time you read a book written in the first person, you have to ask yourself – even subconsciously – how much do I trust the person who is telling me this story? Well, in this case, you know you’re not supposed to trust Sean. He’s a predator, a bad dude struggling to be good, but not really making it 100% of the time. You know that you should keep him and his “truth”at arm’s length, but he just keeps pulling you back in until, eventually, you just end up buying what he’s selling. Lock, stock, and barrel.
Maybe I was confused about more things than I’d been willing to admit. Maybe I’m crazier than I want to believe.
Read this book for the magnetism of Sean’s mercurial personality and for his unique way of seeing people through synesthesia (a psychological condition through which you can see other people’s auras). Read it for the twisty parts, that don’t all bunch up at the end of the book. And read it to find out who the monsters really are.
Listen to an excerpt of Hunting Annabelle HERE (Courtesy of Soundcloud)
And if you end up reading and enjoying Hunting Annabelle, look forward to Heard’s next release – as yet untitled – in December 2019 that will feature a female protagonist who is “scrappy, a hopeless smartass, and is covered in tattoos. More importantly, she’s kind, strong, and warm.” – Wendy Heard.