Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.
With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.
Worldbuilding: Mainly Madrona, Washington idyllic setting of a perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood, for the perfect family.
Characters: Cass is a working mom, and on her second husband after becoming a widow. Her life is very orderly, there’s this sense of efficiency about her in the beginning. It made me think that everything I was reading was a big fat lie, for some reason. As the story went on, my heart went out to her. I got her weaknesses and strengths, and appreciated her thinking even when it was tough to make out just what the truth was.
The rest of the cast of characters came across as a bit too much toward the end there, though each in itself seemed authentic enough.
Plot: The story started well, then took a turn for flashback-town which is a pet-peeve of mine. Why won’t a story just start at the relevant point and follow the natural direction of time? Sigh. There was too much on “how it all began”, which slowed the story down for me. We’re talking literary, so character focus not action focus, I was aware, but even so I didn’t like the tempo going slower, almost dream-like somehow. But it picked up again after that, to my utter joy. Spoiler alert: at about 30% in I felt physically ill. It’s a tough story to read as a woman, and I’m not that faint of heart I think. It’s an exercise in abject horror, to be more exact. Very tense, terrifying in fact, and with a positive though realistic(ish) ending which didn’t manage to pull me out of the horror state of mind, though.
Writing: Third person, present tense narrative, Cass’s POV. The style seemed somehow odd, as if from omni POV. The tone is somehow distant, succint, fact-related – a bit like a newspaper article maybe, in a way? It was a weird but interesting effect.
Curb Appeal: Cool cover, hooking blurb – psychological thriller impulsive buy material.
I recommend Poison to fans of marriage thriller – naming a genre at this point, lol, because so many reads in it and I’m sure there’ll always be room for SO much more -, women as victims and social/authorities reactions. It has a very sociological tone, in a way, and as a sociologist I appreciated that very much.