Grace McDonald is a successful therapist, wife and mother to two grown-up children and Susan J Kraus’ FALL FROM GRACE opens straight into her new client, Mandy’s, first therapy session. It’s a clever technique giving the reader backstory through the dialogue-heavy discussion without being obvious. Mandy’s nervousness and self-deprecation combined with the gentle, analytic tone of the prose contributes to the creeping sense of foreboding when she discusses her marriage to Danny. The reader is able to gain a keen sense of both women and it’s interesting to see this reversed as the novel progresses.
What sets FALL FROM GRACE apart from usual thrillers is that the crime is perpetrated early on and the reader is fully aware of who has committed it and how. The majority of the narrative is focused on peeling back the layers as the murderer’s actions unleash a wrecking ball into the lives of Grace, her family and friends; exposing secrets, lies and half-truths. It’s a tightly constructed and carefully efficient plot that is frighteningly believable and truly nerve-shredding in places. In a narrative that is essentially working backwards to uncover the truth, there can be no inconsistencies or continuity errors and FALL FROM GRACE is faultless in its clinical precision and thorough attention to detail. It becomes clear that earlier, seemingly inconsequential acts, such as Gil (Grace’s husband) having a cigarette when he had given up smoking, have reasons and consequent repercussions. The evidence that places Grace at the scene of the crime is utterly damning to the point of being watertight and horribly clever. There is no forcing incident to provide the breakthrough but merely credible instinct and segue of events which lead to a couple of nail-biting twists.
The characterization in FALL FROM GRACE is intelligent and tailored. Ms. Kraus shifts the perspective from chapter to chapter enabling the reader to build a comprehensive mental picture. Danny is sinister, unpredictable yet to the outside world, a loving husband, father and all-round good guy. Mandy’s move with their young son, Ross, to a fairly lonely, rural setting ratchets up the fear factor so it palpably oozes from the page especially when Danny arrives unannounced. The reader is never quite sure whether or not she will mentally crumble at crucial moments; she begins the novel having lost a sense of her own identity but slowly finds self-worth; yet this new-found confidence is clearly fragile. Grace is mature, measured and possibly a touch intentionally smug in the early chapters. There follows a thought-provoking and convincing trajectory of a comfortable, middle-aged woman who suddenly loses everything. The vulnerability and sheer hopelessness this exposes within her is profound. All the supporting characters, however minor, are individually defined and their varied reactions to events as they unfold are understandable and sincere.
FALL FROM GRACE is an expertly written, psychological thriller that delivers a brilliantly tense and gripping read from beginning to end.
~Rose Auburn for IndieReader