Amidst the un-ending spate of PR series and serial-killer thrillers it’s easy to miss a book like That Night by Chevy Stevens, though I am sure that someone will be tempted to call it the next Gone Girl. I don’t mean anything negative by any of this either, but I am making a point. That Night is a smart tense thriller, mainly quiet and kind of low-key, but effective. No gimmicks, and very little fireworks, and it works.
Toni Murphy is a working class teen girl who seems to have a typical angst-filled life; a boyfriend Ryan that she loves, a family to whom she can’t relate, and a pack of school-girl bullies who make her life hell. Then his sister is murdered, and Toni and Ryan end up taking the fall.
Years later Toni and Ryan are released on parole, and return home. Toni is determined to get on with her life. Ryan, whom she is supposed to avoid, is convinced that with Toni’s help they can find who really killed her sister, and continue their life together.
None of this is easy, and Ms. Stevens makes it just as unpleasant as it sounds. There are no spies and no serial killers, but all of the normal everyday annoyances, together with all of the tensions of Toni’s life, are made almost unbearable.
There are plenty of twists and turns, all believable if not always the most tense, and Ms. Stevens wrings them for what they are worth. The school-girl bullies are particularly vivid, unpleasant and all-too realistic. Also spot-on is the background and the small town feel of the book. There are times when you can start to see where the plot is going, but Ms. Stevens manages to push it just a bit, so that there is always a small element of surprise.
Even in a book that is set in a world so plain and normal. The normalcy is what makes the murder and the eventual revelations about how and why it occurred so shocking. I wasn’t too crazy about the title, but by the end you can see how well it fits. That Night is a really good thriller about the underside of a normal life, and it’s definitely worth your time.
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