1/10/23; 272 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Off the Deep End by Lucinda Berry is a recommended psychological thriller involving two families and a tragic accident
Amber Greer asks her neighbor Jules Hart if she could please give Amber's son Isaac a ride home when she is picking up her son, Gabe. A car accident results in the death of Gabe while his mother, Jules, and Isaac both survive. The aftermath of the accident leaves Jules in an unstable and sometimes violent mental state resulting in her institutionalization for a time. Jules also feels a weird connection to Isaac, which causes Amber to take out a restraining order against her. Then, ten months after the accident, Isaac goes missing and it is feared that a serial killer who was targeting teenage boys has taken him.
The narrative alternates between the point-of-view of Amber and
Jules. Neither woman is very likable, but both are broken and dealing
with unspeakable tragedy and horror. Jules is legally mentally unstable.
Amber blames Jules and is desperately trying to find her son as she
refuses to believe a serial killer has him, no matter what evidence is
there. The police are involved.
The start of the novel will absolutely grab your attention and keep
you reading. Then the plot begins to go downhill as the drama dries up
or seems to be repeating itself. Jules is talking to police forensic
psychiatrist over chapters and it is tedious. There is foreshadowing
that she knows something, but after a few chapters of this, you don't
care. Amber is blaming Jules and continually telling the police to
investigate her while all current clues seem to point to Isaac being
taken by a serial killer.
Then, toward the end we abruptly come to some actual progress, new
revelations, and several shocking twists. (Some of which have been done
so much better by another author, but no spoilers here.) All progress in
the case and new information is saved for the end where numerous facts,
ideas, and actions are all thrown at you all at once. You have to
suspend disbelief that all of this is happening/discovered at one time.
It would have been a much better novel with some clues leading to the
ending or perhaps have Isaac narrate a few chapters earlier. The
denouement is simply too over-the-top.