Rating: 4 1/2 stars
“As Night Falls” by Jenny Milchman isn’t a mystery — it’s much more a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat book. It’s a book you won’t want to put down until the last page. It’s about a family held captive in their house by two escaped convicts — one of whom will stop at nothing to avoid going back to prison.
Part of the suspense is that we do not completely understand the relationships between the characters and one of the escaped convicts. The narrative alternates — always third person narrative — between Nick, one of the escaped convicts; Sandy, the mother; and her daughter, Ivy. At first, it takes a bit of extra concentration to get used to the different points of view. When Sandy’s point of view is being written, Ivy is referred to as “her daughter,” and when it’s Ivy’s point of view, the narrator uses “Ivy’s mother.” There is also a narrative stream that goes back in time, and it’s from when Nick was a child — from his mother’s point of view. It’s all a bit confusing at first, but it works well and helps spotlight the theme of mother-child relationships and how they affect the children. I’ll leave it at that so there are no spoilers.
The story is well paced and the characters are well drawn. At times, Ivy seems almost too stereotypically snotty, but Milchman gives her depth later when Ivy reflects on what happens and how she has reacted. Spoiler alert — the dog does not die. I actually texted the publicist in the middle to ask that question. I don’t know if I would have finished the book if she had told me the dog dies. It doesn’t.
Those who love scary books about ruthless killers will enjoy this one. There is also an “Of Mice and Men” feeling to the story. Milchman blurs the lines between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” She raises some fascinating questions for book clubs to ponder. What makes a person bad? Can a child be raised in such a way as to “go bad”? What about those raised to do bad things? Nature, nurture or simply socio-economic status?
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover picture book provided by Ballantine Books for review purposes.