Up-and-coming artist Junior Lara returns home one night to find all the windows open and his loft apartment filled with doves. As he makes his way through the dark rooms shooing the birds out and closing widows behind them, a deep feeling of unease overtakes him as he realizes something very wrong has occurred—all of his canvases are in tatters, ripped to shreds.
When he slips in a patch of something wet, but disturbingly sticky, Junior barely has time to comprehend he’s stepped in the blood of his girlfriend, supermodel Anya Langtry, whose lifeless eyes stare up at him from the floor, before he has a terrible sense of falling…and everything goes black.
And with that wonderfully eerie, atmospheric opening, The Night Visitor, the newest offering from LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley, is off and running.
Fast forward five years, where we learn Junior survived being shot in the head that night…if you call being in a persistent vegetative state surviving. We also learn that his girlfriend was an illicit one, and that in fact Junior had been engaged to Anya’s sister, Rory, at the time. The police have long since written off the events that occurred that evening as a murder/failed suicide, a theory that Rory and Anya’s family agrees with. Junior’s family, on the other hand, believes it was Rory who shot both Anya and Junior in a jealous rage upon learning of their affair.
Under the skilled and nuanced storytelling of Emley, the reader is taken on a journey that reveals the truth to be far more complicated that anyone could possibly have imagined.
Though Rory has moved on with her life, building a cosmetics empire and getting engaged to a successful LA attorney, the lives of the Langtry and Lara families are far from through being intertwined. When a new tragedy strikes that awakens in Rory a connection with Junior that calls into question everything she thought she knew to be true about the events of that night five years ago, she’s drawn into a mystery that will take more than normal sleuthing to solve.
The Night Visitor, a standalone novel, is somewhat of a departure for Emley, who is best known for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers and the Iris Thorne mystery series. On the surface, The Night Visitor is an engaging, entertaining mystery, but there is more going on at a deeper level. The story has a supernatural edge not present in any of Emley’s previous work, and Emley deftly uses that wrinkle to explore the nature of the ties that bind people together, probing whether there is, in fact, a deeper level of connection possible than what we consciously perceive in our everyday interactions.
As Emley revealed in her recent guest post, she has personally gone through the experience of having a family member in a deep coma followed by an extended period of questionable state of consciousness, and that experience informs the storytelling in The Night Visitor in a way that adds an undeniable verisimilitude to events, elevating them above a simple jaunt into the paranormal—there is real, painful soul searching going on, potentially life-changing questions being asked and answers to same being sought. And that combination of a well-written whodunnit intertwined with some deeper philosophical exploration makes for an electrically compelling read.
The Night Visitor is available from Alibi/Random House.