book review (ARC): Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen




No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug—and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

Unconvincingly written and disappointingly “one-note”, Lying Next to Me has such a promising blurb – but for me, it failed to deliver. Initially, I wondered if Gregg Olsen was inspired by the case of Heather Teague, who went missing over twenty years ago in Kentucky. A witness with a telescope saw Heather, who was sunbathing by the side of a lake, approached by a man who dragged her into the woods at gunpoint. To this day, there have been no signs of her whereabouts. All that was left of her was a small scrap of her bathing suit, discovered by investigators as they combed the scene.

It’s a case that has always haunted me.

This novel will not. It’s certainly readable, and it starts with a bang. Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are on holiday. While out crab fishing with his little girl, Adam sees his wife abducted on the shore. Though he rows back with everything in him, by the time he returns, there’s no sign of her – and the search begins.

Right from the get-go, it’s clear there’s more to Adam than there seems. He’s not acting like you’d “expect” and even in his inner thoughts, there’s a veil over his feelings, as if he’s playing a role. Interestingly, Adam knows one of the two lead detectives on Sophie’s case.

Lee is the sister of Adam’s childhood best friend, and their history is a fraught one – tangled with an instance where Adam saved her life, in the most harrowing of circumstances.

There isn’t a likable character in this bunch. Adam is a hapless asshole, more interested in drinking whisky than parenting his child. Sophie’s parents are akin to caricatures – her father particularly is such a blustering blowhard that he”s impossible to swallow as a functioning human being. There is zero nuance to his character.

Even Lee is unsympathetic, due to the deeply stupid things she keeps doing. Her misguided crush on Adam seems more befitting of a 13-year-old girl than a police detective. It’s not endearing. I just wanted to shake her.

By the end, I didn’t care what happened to any of them. Even Sophie. While the “twist” is a good one, I couldn’t muster up anything but vague sympathy.

I think I might have appreciated it more if we’d had more time with her – or any time at all – she remained a mystery, and since the entire book is based around her disappearance, it’s weird that she’s a question mark. We’re meant to wonder what happened to her and why, and Olsen gives us nothing to go on.

While there were promising elements to this tale, for me, it didn’t quite get there, and I think it would have benefited from more time taken to flesh out the characters and make them more well rounded.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it, as always!

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