Many psychological thrillers have unreliable narrators and twists galore, but “Goodnight Beautiful” by Aimee Molloy only seems to have an unreliable narrator. In truth, it’s the reader’s assumptions that are unreliable. And in the first twist, we realize how completely we’ve been snookered.
The newlywed couple, Sam Statler and Annie Potter, move to upstate New York so that they can be close to Sam’s aging mother, who is in an assisted care facility. Sam grew up in Chestnut Hill. His mother was the school secretary and his father a teacher until he fell in love with an underwear model who also happened to be the heir to a fortune. Sam’s teenage years at the high school were spent as a player, sleeping his way through many of the teens in town.
Now he’s a respected therapist, and the beautiful town of Chestnut Hill has many clients eager for a psychologist of Sam’s caliber. While Annie is very capable in her own right, she doesn’t have a full schedule. She and Sam take turns visiting his mother each day, and it seems that their life together is idyllic.
However, Sam doesn’t realize that the air duct in his beautiful, newly remodeled office travels to an upstairs room where his conversations with his patients can be heard. The unhappy wives, the artist with the wandering eyes — and hands — all those private conversations are overheard. Also, he has made the egregious error of counting his chickens before they have hatched, and he’s spent a lot of money because he’s been counting on a huge sum of money he believes he will be getting. But hiding the outrageous bills from Annie is getting difficult, and worrying about money is causing Sam stress.
When Sam disappears, Annie is convinced that there’s been foul play. The chief of police is not so sure. And who’s been tipping off the journalists with information no one else should have had? Has Sam run off and left her like his father left his mother? Or is he in desperate need of rescue? Annie is determined to find out.
“Goodnight Beautiful” is a story that’s not just engrossing; we grow to really like Sam and Annie, and we want it to all work out for them. But Molloy masterfully creates cliffhanger after cliffhanger, and we keep reading and reading, intent on discovering how it will all turn out. The homage to another author of thrillers, perhaps the master of thrillers, is superb, but disclosing who would be a huge spoiler. This is one psychological thriller that will bring you an unusual measure of enjoyment. It’s a really lovely and well-put-together story that is qualitatively different from other psychological thrillers. Somehow, its effect may very well leave you feeling darn near joyful.
Review originally posted on Bookreporter.com.