Saturday, August 25, 2012

YOU DON"T WANT TO KNOW by Lisa Jackson

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Kensington 
Genre: suspense novel, mystery, thriller
Rating: 5 stars

Ava Garrison is a fractured and grieving woman. It’s been two years since her two year old son Noah mysteriously vanished from her house on Church Island, off the Washington coast.  With no ransom ever requested and no corpse ever found, police investigations had ended in a blind alley of  volatile clues without offering any hope of closure, the kidnapping lead abandoned in favor of a most certain  accidental death.  Almost likely the little boy had wandered off the house, reached the docks and found his death in the cold waters.  The loss and  lack of closure had apparently been too  much to handle, even for a  once self-driven, successful and ruthless business woman like Ava. What’s left of that dynamo of business savvy and sex-appeal  is a woman tormented by guilt, pills-induced hallucinations, and a huge mental/emotional block that is preventing her from discerning dreams and blurred memories from reality. The collusive and secretive attitude of her very husband, family members and household staff, will trap her in a state of unknowing and unmistakable feeling of being framed in an artfully orchestrated conspiracy to send her back in a mental institution.  
After spending some time in a hospital under psychiatric ward, Ava returns to her estate only to find that her world is crumbling down.  Her ancestral home, once her safe haven, now feels like a gloomy prison, her family members act more like enemies than supporters, her husband is more and more disconnected, fueling her suspicions that her  already languishing marriage is just heading toward a bitter divorce. Heavily medicated and monitored at home by a psychiatrist hired by her husband, Ava experiences  huge memory gaps  and recurrent nightmares about that night when her son went missing: she doesn’t clearly recollect the circumstances of her son’s disappearance and, despite the telling scars on her wrists, she doesn’t even remember ever attempting suicide. Her dreams are so vivid that they start blending with her unfocused perception of reality, a perception made even more distorted by the use of medications.  When she decides to interrupt  her psychiatric  therapy and she wisely stops using tranquilizers and anti-depressants,  her mind breaks through the fog and gets a hold of a thread that will lead her (through unimaginable twist-and-turns and unfathomable discoveries about her family and friends) to the truth about her son’s disappearance. Help will come from Austin Dern, a mysterious handyman hired by her husband to take care of the estate , a complete stranger but ironically the only person on the island Ava can really trust.

In this intense, pulse-racing suspense novel, prolific author Lisa Jackson had me at the prologue. The initial pages are emotionally charged and really set the tone for the entire book: the heart-wrenching description of Ava’s “deep seated and painful grief”, her feelings of helplessness and guilt, in addition to the anguished replaying of that terrible tragedy in her nightmares, pierced through my heart and immediately propelled me in Ava’s personal hell. I am a mother and I can easily relate to her emotional trial. What I found endearing about this character is also the way her traumatic experience redefines her personality without crashing her headstrong core and unyielding hope. The tragedy stirs Ava’s  life from a torturing pattern of self-doubt to a path of clarity and disambiguation, where several veils will drop on the real substance of her family and friendship relations.
Lisa Jackson’s descriptive style gives true dimension to every scene:  you will always have a clear and seamless sense of space and time. The narration is richly textured and pleasantly complex: switching now and then on a  double chronological time line, between the present path to recovery and the  flashbacks from the past,   the author’s use of interior monologues  and introspective point of view for some of the main characters provide the reader with a front seat view in Ava’s and Dern’s emotional worlds,  without spoiling the mystery factor and the suspenseful effect.  Well into the second half of the book, in fact, not only Dern’s  true identity and real mission at Ava’s estate are still shrouded in a mystery as thick as the fogs enveloping Church Island; I am so knee-deep in this gripping plot of  deception that   I cannot even start to fathom where the truth about Ava’s son disappearance is buried. Duplicity at every turn of the page! You Don’t Want To Know clever plot is far from predictable. It actually twisted and turned so many times it blew me away despite all my guessing and theorizing. The rich cast of characters is complex and fully nuanced: extravagant, creepy, ambiguous, enigmatic, ghastly, hypocrite, scheming,  are the adjectives that can better describe the humanity crowding Ava’s estate : ”The whole island was something out of a Hitchcock novel”, a real nest of vipers.
This  heart-stopping mystery is laced with a tenuous romance, but doesn’t lack the intensity and the heart-warming emotions typical of a romantic suspense novel. I would highly recommend it to a wide range of readers, from those who love a good straight psychological thriller to those who always appreciate  a touch of romance.
You Don’t Want To Know was my first Lisa Jackson’s novel and certainly not the last. I would like to thank the publisher for offering a complimentary copy in exchange of a honest review.

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