One Step Behind by Lauren North
Penguin Random House: 9/1/20
review copy; 368 pages
Jenna Lawson is a doctor, wife, and mother. For over a year she has
been the ongoing victim of stalker who keeps leaving her frightening
gifts. She can feel herself being watched and has sighted her stalker
several times. Jenna is at a breaking point. She is barely sleeping and
is on edge and wary all the time. She immediately reports all the
incidences to the police, but they haven't been able to find the
culprit. When a man is brought into the emergency room where Jenna
works, she immediately recognizes him as her stalker. He is put into a
medically induced coma and Jenna can't help herself, she looks at his
phone. On it she finds images of her and her kids as well as another
mother who she knows.
Inserted into the main story line are chapters about a personal
trainer, Sophie, who is worried about her brother,
Matthew. The two shared a difficult childhood. These chapters go back in
time to when her parents first adopted Matthew and when Sophie was
always admonished to take care of her brother. This seems to be the
ongoing theme of their adult lives too, but Sophie is tired of taking
care of Matthew and living with her overbearing controlling boyfriend.
North does depict the increasingly poor decisions Jenna is making due
to the stress and paranoia she is experiencing. You do begin to wonder
briefly if she is doing this to herself. But then it becomes more clear
that, while the main characters are well-developed, they also all seem
to be troubled and, well, become annoying after a while. After several
chapters they begin to grate on your nerves. I pressed on because it's a
stalker story and I wanted to get to the twist that had to be coming.
The twist came, but it wasn't quite as satisfying as I was hoping.
Basically, though, the writing is good. North is a writer to watch in the future. She did a good job increasing the tension and suspense, although the novel did go on a bit too long. In the future more care needs to be taken before adding a few plot points that were improbable and simply couldn't happen.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.