All The Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.
Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.
What was it all about
All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham was the one thing that kept me hooked to my cozy reading spot on the couch until I finished the book in one go. Whoosh…the breath left my lungs when I got to know the explosive, most unexpected unending. It was quite mind-blowing.
A missing child trope and quite a few praises in the critical section of the blurb caught my eye on amazon, and I knew I had to get it. That was a great decision I made since it was so difficult to put the book down even to make a cuppa tea.
A standalone, this was my first foray into the land of this author’s words, and I liked getting lost in them. The missing child trope had been done in literally thousands of ways, yet something about this book kept my curiosity piqued to know what happened to this child.
The title gave the vibe of all the dangerous things that could harm the child, forgetting that sometimes that danger came from within.
Blurb in short
Her son Mason had been taken from Isabelle’s home one night a year back with no leads at all other than the cops suspecting the parents, and now the investigation had turned cold.
It was only up to Isabelle to keep Mason in the eye of the public with her talks at various crime conferences, hoping she could find one witness, one clue, one suspect. After all, they did say the perpetrator liked to visit the area of the crime or meet the unsuspecting parents to silently mock them.
Isabelle’s insomnia soon played havoc where she found it difficult to distinguish reality from the dream-like state.
Then came Waylon with his crime podcast who offered her a way to reach millions of his listeners. But he had his own secrets.
Trigger Warnings: Missing child itself was a trigger for most mothers. And a compelling hook for readers like me.
I found this book well worth my time and money, as I couldn’t seem to stay from it.
Isabelle, as the mother, was a difficult character to connect with. She was in her own world, with insomnia adding to this, where everyone became a suspect with barely any evidence.
Even a comment on social media became something that could make her call the cops tens of times. She was a good mother, no doubt, in the way she was portrayed to love her son, though there were not many scenes that showed her bond with her son.
But something about her scraped me raw, like she was not all there. That could be a deliberate act of the author to keep the suspense flowing in the pages. But a part of me wished that after one year, she showed some intelligence. Unlikable and unreliable was she in nearly the whole book. Exactly what the author was aiming for.
Except for one factor…
Her character was shown to be persevering right until the end, where she had nearly guessed the truth, but as soon as someone tried to divert her, she reverted to her earlier insecure, doubting self. That felt odd to me because it was like showing her moving two steps forward and five steps backward. No point in doing that at the end of the book.
The other characters played their parts. Waylon too had some big secrets to hide, easy to guess, but at the same time, surprising too.
As per the norm, the cops were idiots, and I never understood the following line they kept telling her when she found a clue or asked them to investigate something.
You are pulling resources away from other angles
What did that mean? The cops weren’t even actively working on this case, so what resources were these? Till the end of the book, I never understood that.
The book had two subplots running through its chapters. One was the missing child that I had already spoken about, and the other was Isabelle’s past concerning her sister Margaret and her own problem of sleepwalking.
The Now and Then kept me flipping through the pages almost constantly. I started with the audiobook but couldn’t seem to stick to it since I wanted to immerse myself in Isabelle’s life. The prose was so inviting and eerie at times.
It was not a perfect plot line as many things were written to bring about the effect of darkness and a sense of something watching this family. Sadly enough, that was just an effect without it being embedded in a subplot.
The truth of the past could be guessed by thriller readers a.k.a moi, but for newbies, it would be a pleasant shocker. Also, this fact was revealed only in the end, when in reality, Isabelle should have gotten this information much much long ago. It was just a matter of asking her parents.
The ending was the biggest cherry on this cake because it was unexpected, and it sideswiped me completely. The best part of this book. To know what really happened to Mason on that night.
I liked how the author made the atmosphere too as unreliable as Isabelle, there was always the feeling that something more was at play. It gave the book the right push to make it a psychological mystery.
But at times, it also felt there was more-than-needed darkness that was written in the book, especially if the story was being told after one year, the public was almost apathetic. Yet the feeling of the back of the neck pricking due to someone’s stare and something alive in the house were entwined in the prose.
In the end, I realized they were just placemarks to make the setting flow as a mystery when there was nothing much to write as subplots or clues to further the story. But it worked to make me stick to the book.
OH MY! That was its biggest flaw. The book was a super-slow burn mystery, not a pulse-spiking thriller as I thought it to be, where a lot of the dialogue was Isabelle’s thoughts. Sometimes, I did wish I had a remote to make the story move at a faster rate.
But as said before, the ending made it all worth it.
The style of writing - The Prose
I had to commend author Stacy Willingham’s writing. Even with no subplots connecting to the feelings the main character had, the words were so believable. Many a time, I was trying to read between the lines to wonder who was following our Isabelle.
I found the writing strong, though the tendency of falling into I think… I feel… lines from the main character was also seen. But that would go away in the next book after the author read my review here. Hahaha. One could only hope.
The book had the X-factor in it that would make anyone want to keep reading it until they got to the final truth, and the entire credit of this strength was to the author.
It was the believable voice of the writing and the shocker of the ending that made me run to Amazon and pick up the first book by this author, A Flicker in the Night. Stay tuned for its review as soon as I finished reading it.
How it made me feel
I was extremely invested in this story, and with it being my favorite trope, I couldn’t seem to stay away from this book. Despite the small niggles, I felt it was very well done. I have it on my nightstand at the moment.
Do I recommend this book?
Of course. Every thriller reader should read it. Mystery and suspense with eerie vibrations in the tapestry of the story. All that more made it a fun book. Not yet a five-star read, but I felt the author was getting there.
I downloaded the digital version of the book from an online retail, and this is my journey down its pages, straight from the heart. STRICTLY HONEST and UNBIASED.
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Yeah, Shalini, I love your reviews. But you are right–a missing child would be my trigger. Not for me.
Excellent review, Shalini. The missing child is always a tear jerker for me, but I still read it. I have this one to read/listen to and am looking forward to it even more now.