I get the appeal of blackmail in works of fiction. Trying to ward off someone who is hellbent on taking you down can lend action, drama, and suspense to a well-crafted plot line. However, as a reader and lover of psychological thrillers, I will more often than not skip over a book where blackmail is the central plot point.
The reason that I find these tales to be so aggravating is that at the beginning of the book, there is always a window to go to the police (or whomever) and set the story straight. However, in most all of these tales, the protagonist fails to put a stop to the blackmail when the opportunity presents itself. In these plots, sometimes the protagonist complies with the blackmail out of fear, other times the protagonist doesn’t believe that the blackmailer’s threats are credible, and in extraordinary cases the protagonist tries to turn the tables on the blackmailer without success.
As a reader, it is agonizing to follow a protagonist who squirms under the pressure of blackmail. More than once I have turned away from a book once it was revealed that blackmail would be the main focus. However, upon seeing the book “The End of Her” by Shari Lapena, I decided to finish the book even though the story quite obviously veers down the path of blackmailing drama.
Without spoilers, I will quickly say that the story revolves around a young couple with twins. The family is at its wit’s end, as the colicky babies make it impossible for the parents to sleep more than a few hours at a time. To make matters worse, Erica Voss, a shadowy figure from the husband’s past makes a surprise appearance at his office and attempts to dredge up ancient history that his current wife and the Denver police department would be interested in hearing….
The characters in this book are over-anxious, over-emotional, and they can hardly think for themselves. When weak characters are the lens through which the reader experiences the plot, enjoying the story becomes a conscious effort.
I enjoy Shari Lapena’s books in general — I highly recommend “The Couple Next Door,” “A Stranger in the House,” and “Someone We Know.” However, “The End of Her” was different and if you feel as I do about tales of blackmail, perhaps, not to your liking.
The book was fast-paced, the plot was intriguing, and it makes you want to know “what happens next.” I enjoy Lapena’s books for their twists and turns (and this book has its fair share!), however, altogether the characters are flat, the wife is annoying, and the blackmail plot is unbearable. It was hard to finish this book, but I did it, if only because I wanted resolution.
When it comes to books about blackmail (or actual blackmail), dear Reader, DO NOT ENGAGE.