I’m trying to listen to at least one audiobook a month in 2022, and… well, I blew through this one in just a few days, which I way faster than I usually read these. So I’d say I’m off to a good start this year!
In Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner, Helen is expecting a baby after years of trying. Her gorgeous parkside home is being remodeled. Everything seems to be looking up. But at a prenatal class, she meets another expecting mother named Rachel. Rachel is far from maternal, seeming uninterested in her own pregnancy but very interested in every aspect of Helen’s life. Over the next few weeks, Helen cautiously allows them to become close, oddly fascinated by this unusual girl and glad to have a friend. But soon, Rachel’s strange behavior gets more and more noticeable, and it begins to affect Helen’s friends and family. Helen starts to wonder if Rachel is somehow connected to their past, what secrets she knows, and what it could mean that she’s here now.
I have to say, this is not my usual type of book, but I’m always looking to diversify the genres I read. And I got to listen to the audiobook of this in advance, which was really cool. The narrator, Laura Kirman, does an incredible job. She really immerses you in the story.
I think that this novel had a really strong start—the introduction of the characters felt organic and realistic, and the way Rachel’s growing closeness to Helen was presented made sense (even if it was super suspicious). I really enjoyed the sense of foreboding that continued to build as Rachel insinuated herself into Helen’s life more and more. Rachel is a fascinating character, and the layers to both her behavior and the way she subtly manipulates Helen was honestly pretty compelling.
The other characters like Daniel, Rory, Serena, and Katie were great, too (even if I didn’t like a couple of them). I enjoyed watching the tangled connections they all have with each other slowly be revealed, and then altered due to Rachel’s actions. I can’t say much of the details here, as that’s pretty major spoilers. However, I can say that the way the narrative is presented made for an intriguing read. Faulkner utilizes the omniscient third-person perspective so effectively in this novel: the reader gets tidbits of information before other characters, so that we are given a fuller picture than any one individual has, but at the same time, we’re still missing vital pieces of information. It makes the mystery both easy and difficult to unravel, if that makes sense. For example, I guessed a certain “whodunit” at one point, but didn’t have enough information to really deduce the motive. It was odd, but in an entertaining way.
So while the first half of the book was really strong, I think that the latter half—particularly the ending—left a lot to be desired, personally. For one thing, the entire storyline was rather too contingent on the suffering of women, and while it certainly condemned certain characters, there wasn’t enough comeuppance for it to feel worth it. I really rooted for one particular character, once I learned their full story, and the conclusion was quite disappointing. I mean, all those years of struggle and pain for… this? That’s how their story ended? Sure, I guess the main bad guy got punished, but come on, that’s nothing compared to what this character went through. (And there’s definitely some moral gray area with this character, but ultimately, I side with them more than the others!)
Also, the ending was a little too Gone Girl for my tastes, but actually more confusing than that. I feel like I missed something in the last scene—who was the man at the very end? Was I supposed to know who he was? I feel like I should have known him, but instead I was left saying “wait, what?” in a kind of exasperated way. So yeah, not an ideal note to end on, but here I am. (If anyone reads this book, and they understand the last scene, please explain it to me.)
One final note before my concluding remarks, please be aware of the content warnings before you read this book! This story deals with murder, miscarriages, some drug use (including an instance of a person drinking a drugged beverage without knowing it), and most especially rape. None of it is presented in a disrespectful way, but the book does present these things seriously, and with some detail. This is definitely a novel for adults.
So in the end, Greenwich Park was an atmospheric, compelling mystery-thriller. It’s character-driven and intense, with great moments of drama and action. The interwoven storylines were presented at a perfect pace, with insight and intrigue. But I just really wish this plot hadn’t been so dependent on women going through awful things, and that it hadn’t lacked a satisfactory conclusion (at least for me). The end—well, the last third of the book, probably—kind of soured my experience. I didn’t have a bad time, overall, but I think I wanted this book to be more than it was. That said, the writing was strong, particularly for a debut, and I would be kind of curious to see where Faulkner’s career takes her (though I might wait for advance reviews before picking up her next book, personally).
Greenwich Park will be published on January 25th, 2022!