Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Historical | Psychological Thriller
A gripping blend of psychological suspense and historical true crime, this riveting novel—inspired by a sensational real-life murder from the 1800s—by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault delivers a heart-stopping mystery linking two young mothers from different centuries.
Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.
1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.
During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.
Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.
Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.
I was feeling the heebie jeebies before I even read the first word of Emily Arsenault's psychological thriller, THE EVENING SPIDER. A 19th century young mother who was a tad too interested in her small town's murder case of the century who eventually lost her marbles, turned evil and might be haunting a house in this century? This is not your run-of-the-mill post partum depression that's for sure.
Switch to present day and Abby is now the new owner of Frances' old house. Like Frances, Abby too is a new mom and is obviously overwhelmed with all the changes that's happened in her life. Now here is where it gets creepy, Abby's daughter seems to be haunted. Mysterious bruises in her body, eerie shushing sounds coming from the nursery and the door feeling blocked for no reason... Makes you wonder what unfinished Frances has and why she's after Abby's baby.
As THE EVENING SPIDER moves forward it gets even more puzzling and the implications are frightening. The obvious case scnario being Frances is indeed the one haunting Abby and her baby because she has unfinished business or maybe she made a pact with the devil or something to that effect. Frances' accounts are enough to implicate her as our dark presence in the house, her journal entries about forensic science alone is like reading the making of a serial killer. These entries were redundant and at times boring, but the repetitiveness is proof that Frances might not be quite right in the head. Also, she's a reckless mother, her baby's safety doesn't seem to be her priority, there are a couple of scenarios where she even used her child as an excuse for compulsive but necessary excursions. Obvious suspect right?
Well maybe not.
But what if it's not Frances but Abby's who's losing her mind and she's just projecting her own breakdown through Frances? I mean being a new mom living in a new town residing in an old house that has this kind of history can be overwhelming. Reading and researching Frances, the house, and the Stannard murder, combined with strange occurences in the house will certainly induce paranoia, Heck this is like a Molatov cocktail on anybody's sanity don't you think?
EArsenault did really well in planting different and opposing seeds on my mind to the point where I'm getting anxious and starting to get antsy for the revelation. By the last quarter, I have no idea what's going on, is Frances innocent or guilty? Is Abby on to something or does she need a long nap, a shower, and a trip to te spa and she'll realize that it was all in her imagination? WTH IS HAPPENING?!
When all the pieces of the puzzle are revealed, suffice to say that I was beyond surprised, very much underwhelmed, and a lot confused. Why? Because EArsenault threw this curve ball which disconnected Frances and Abby's story and disorienting the whole mystery.
I love how EArsenault played Frances and Abby against each other, the build-up was strong, the evidence against Frances was convincing, I was biting my nails, super engrossed in the story only to find out that the women aren't connected at all except for the fact that they live(d) in the same house! That it was all about Abby with Frances as a catalyst of sorts or even the scapegoat. THE EVENING SPIDER has some amazing individual qualities that truly made it such a page-turning thriller, but as a whole it fell apart. I wish EArsenault just stuck with Frances and Abby, adding twists and turns to bend our minds and blindside us, and just discarded the third angle which by the way wasn't resolved.
So after all this rambling, I don't know what happened.