The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger is Megan Miranda’s follow up to All the Missing Girls.  I read and reviewed All the Missing Girls back in January.  The Perfect Stranger differs in structure to All the Missing Girls which largely unspooled its story backwards.  While The Perfect Stranger follows a more traditional story structure, it is no less gripping.

After Leah Stevens torches her career in Boston in pursuit of the truth, a seemingly chance encounter with her former, post-college roommate, Emmy Grey, spurs the two women to move to western Pennsylvania.  Both women are in search of a fresh start and while Leah finds hers as a high school English teacher, Emmy flounders in nameless, nondescript, dead end jobs.  When a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Leah is found left for dead on the shores of the nearby lake, Leah soon realizes that her roommate has been missing for an undetermined length of time.  And Leah realizes that it is the beginning of the end of her fresh start because both the woman’s brutal beating and her roommate’s disappearance will draw Leah into both investigations and compel the police to dig into her background.

There are several threads of mysteries in this book.  There’s the mystery of what happened in Boston and why, and these answers are twisted, disturbing, and terrifying.  There’s the mystery of the identity of the perpetrator who brutally beat Leah’s doppelganger and left her for dead.  Was this woman the intended target?  Or was she mistaken for Leah who may have been the true intended target?  How does this woman connect to Emmy Grey?  And finally as the police search for Emmy, they discover that no such woman with that name exists and since everything from utilities to the lease are in Leah’s name, no legal or physical trace of the woman remains.  Who is Emmy?  What or who is she running from and why?

All of these mysteries are bound together by a common theme: women who are victimized by men, and the varying effectiveness of the solutions those women deploy to deal with those situations when they can’t or won’t go to the police.  This is a theme that runs deep throughout the story.  There’s the man who is stalking Leah and whether or not he is connected to the woman left for dead on the shores of the lake.  There’s whatever Leah’s old college friend’s husband did to Leah and has done to other women that drives Leah’s attempt to use journalism to expose him.  There’s whatever happened to Emmy and her friend that drove them to commit an act for which one of them would do jail time while the other assumes multiple aliases and a life on the run.  It is what draws Emmy to Leah in the first place; it is what both Leah and Emmy have in common.  And it binds them inextricably to each other.  This is a heart pounding, terrifying, disturbing, gripping thriller with more than a few twists that turn the story on its head.  It’s a fast read, and it’s hard to put down.

–Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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