Slow Burn Books by Rebecca Howard

On the week before Banned Book Week, I’m reluctant to type “burn” and “book” in the same sentence.  However, “slow burn” is probably the best way to describe the pacing and the key appeal of The Silent Wife—a recent psychological thriller by A.S.A. Harrison.  With book jacket blurbs from the likes of Elizabeth George and S.J. Watson together with comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this novel is getting a lot of buzz and already has quite a lengthy holds list. 

First things first:  If you’re looking for the next Gone Girl, I don’t think this is it.  However, if you’re looking for something a little more slowly paced with complex, haunting, and conflicted characters, and a tone of unease and dread, pick up this slip of a novel and clear your calendar for the next day or so.  You’ll quickly devour this juicy tale.    

As I was reading this novel, I was reminded of other novels that succeeded at creating this sense of dread and unease.  While you wait for The Silent Wife, you may want to give one of these a try.  (Annotations from NovelList.)

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Joe and Clarissa Rose's spring idyll in the park is cut short when Joe helps rescue a child from a balloon accident, one man is killed, and Joe becomes the target of suspicion and ultimately an assassination attempt.

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Meeting at an Amsterdam restaurant for dinner, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons' act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and revealed the extent to which each family will go to protect those they love.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Ralph Truitt, a wealthy businessman with a troubled past who lives in a remote nineteenth-century Wisconsin town, has advertised for a reliable wife; and his ad is answered by Catherine Land, a woman who makes every effort to hide her own dark secrets.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
A researcher at a pharmaceutical company, Marina Singh journeys into the heart of the Amazonian delta to check on a field team that has been silent for two years--a dangerous assignment that forces Marina to confront the ghosts of her past.

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
Comforting a dying car crash victim before being invited to meet the woman's privileged family, Frances is transformed through her friendships with two family members from an unknown editor to a sought-after figure in literary society.

In addition to “slow burn” pacing, many of these titles also feature unreliable or ambiguous narrators, singular acts of violence that irrevocably alter characters’ lives, and characters with troubling, but not entirely understood, pasts.  These are perfect books for cooler fall days.  Enjoy the slow burn. 

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