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Suspense to terrify the loving parent

Book review: She's Not There by Joy Fielding
Joy Fielding The novelist will be at the Thriller Writers' Lunch at the Whistler Writers Festival. PHOTO submitted

Whistler hosts the 2016 Writers Festival from Oct. 13 to 16. Pique is running book reviews by attending authors to celebrate. For information and tickets:

I can't read this.

I hear buzzing, a clank.

I'm up, checking the nursery for the third time tonight. Just like the night before. No perpetrator hangs over my two-year-old toddler, who is fast asleep, however. I move to the open window and look down. No one climbs the water drain. I eye up the city, so different from my mountain home. I don't dare close the window in this summer's sweltering heat.

I return to the only scene of the crime. The book She's Not There taunts me from my bedroom nightstand. The work of fiction is arguably inspired in part by the true-life event of a toddler being abducted from a hotel room while parents, who decided to leave their daughter alone, dined downstairs at the hotel restaurant.

No new parent wants to read about things like this; to have their already crazy fears fueled even more. But the clock blinks a red 3 a.m., and I'm pulling the book back onto my lap and clicking on my flashlight. Only 300 more pages to go. What could possibly keep a sleep-deprived, neurotic new mother still reading? Great suspense writing will do that — even if you know reading further means you'll be up again the minute the floor creaks.

It should come as no surprise that the author is a New York Times-bestseller many times over. Joy Fielding has turned out 26 books (so far) in her career, and I'm sure she'll be the first author to copyright the catchphrase "page turner" because the descriptor has been used so many times by reviewers with her work.

She's Not There jumps forward and back in time, leaving the reader to piece together what's happening and trying to forecast what is coming when a mother, mourning her missing child, receives a phone call from a young girl who says, "I think I'm your daughter." A missing-child story can only conclude in one of two ways: lost or found. But Fielding's mastery of dragging even the most reluctant reader (the forementioned neurotic new mother) through a constant guessing game, leaves you holding your breath to that final revealing moment.

Needless to say, I refuse to pick up Fielding's Kiss Mommy Goodbye. Regardless of whether the New York Times called the book a "knockout" or not. Kiss Mommy Goodbye is summarized as such: "He stole the children — an ex-husband's ruthless revenge... a mother's terror-filled quest." On reading this, I turn off my flashlight and in the dark size up my husband sleeping soundly next to me... the floor creaked.

Joy Fielding will read at the Thriller Writers' Lunch at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 1 to 2:15 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Tickets are $32 at