When a mysterious novel appears at Catherine Ravenscroft’s bedside, she is curious. She has no idea who might have sent her The Perfect Stranger—or how it ended up on her nightstand. At first, she is intrigued by the suspenseful story that unfolds.
And then she realizes.
This isn’t fiction.
The Perfect Stranger re-creates in vivid, unmistakable detail the day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.
Now that the past Catherine so desperately wants to forget is catching up with her, her world is falling apart. Plunged into a living nightmare, she knows that her only hope is to confront what really happened on that terrible day … even if the shocking truth may destroy her.
So I had a little dilemma on my hands when it came to this book. You see, by the time I got to page 50 of Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, I knew it was a book that, under normal circumstances, I’d put down and not finish.
By page 100, I was more than sure of it.
My dilemma? I was reading Disclaimer for a TLC Book Tour. If I DNF’d it, I wouldn’t be able to review it.
So I thought about it, and decided I’d speed-skim through the rest of the pages. I figured, that would be like finishing the book, and then maybe I could review it. But after I did that, I realized that speed-skimming through it wasn’t the same as properly reading it to the end. I couldn’t write a review based on reading the first 100 pages and then skimming my way through the rest of the book.
And I still had to write a post about it.
So I’ve decided to write about why those first 100 pages just didn’t resonate with me.
I’m in the minority in my feelings about this book, by the way. Most of the reviews on Goodreads are rave ones. I know this, because I went and read several of them, to try and see what I was missing, what others were getting that I just couldn’t see.
But even after reading the reviews, I knew there were a few things I just couldn’t get past. The following are my own personal foibles as a reader—given the number of outstanding reviews for Disclaimer, it’s obvious they’re very personal to me, and will likely not affect how other readers will feel about the book.
Being kept in the dark for so long. Normally I don’t mind being kept in the dark as a reader. I mean, without that, there wouldn’t be any suspense, right? And generally the main characters (well, other than the villains) usually don’t know what’s going on either. We’re reading the story from their perspective; what they don’t know, we don’t know.
I’m good with that.
But the thing is, in Disclaimer we get to be intimate with Catherine’s feelings. We know she’s in turmoil, we know she’s in pain, we know she’s scared. We know how she felt reading the book, how she felt when she first realized it was a book about her. We’re in the bathroom with her as she sits on the toilet crying. We’re in bed with her as the anxiety and dread and fear eat away at her.
Through the first hundred pages or so, we are privy to all her feelings about this monstrous thing that’s brutally ripping her life apart , but despite knowing all this, we aren’t privy at all to what this thing is. Even though Catherine herself knows. Catherine, whose point of view we have been reading in every other chapter.
And I’m afraid for me, being kept in the dark in this kind of way didn’t build up the suspense. It actually kept me out of the story. It was like an authorial intrusion; I kept seeing the author’s hand at play. And it went on for too long, for no good reason other than it was a way to build up the suspense.
Unlikable characters. I didn’t find any of the characters in this book particularly likable, although in the end one might feel more sympathy for one of the characters. I don’t particularly like reading novels with unlikable characters, but if the story is good I will keep on reading. Disclaimer has a great story—I mean, can you imagine reading a book and finding yourself as one of the main characters?—but in the end (or rather, after 100 pages) the unlikable characters coupled with being kept in the dark for so long just didn’t work for me.
The writing style. I didn’t like the writing style employed in Catherine’s chapters. It was too choppy, too disjointed. I wanted more transitions in time and space than were offered.
Since I did skim read to the end, I know how the plot ends, so I’ll end with my thoughts on the plot. I don’t think the actual event as depicted in The Perfect Stranger was worth all the build-up. There is a twist at the end, though. The effects of the revealing of this twist seemed to me (in my speed skimming, that is) to happen too quickly, to produce too fast of a turnaround in one character in particular. No spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know who I mean.
So there you have it. These are the reasons why Disclaimer didn’t resonate with me. Personally, I think if you like the synopsis and don’t share any of the reading dislikes I’ve listed, you’ll probably enjoy Disclaimer. After all, lots of people—most people—who have read it have loved it.