What frame of mind does this title put you in? The statement is vague enough to apply to a lot of situations, though most of the ones I'm imagining involve conflict and anguish.
Bring it on, Reid.
This debut (out June 14) is the fourth book put out by Scout Press, and they continue to be a strong little imprint dedicated to interesting, literary works. They aren't afraid to try something different and new, to release something that's completely unique—which is honestly a breath of fresh air, especially in the thriller department. This is the second thriller they've done, with a new book by Ruth Ware due out later this year. (You may have heard of her first book Scout Press published, In a Dark, Dark Wood.) I'm Thinking of Ending Things was not at all what I was expecting. And I say that in the best way possible—I promise you! Unfortunately, it's also very difficult to describe just what's going on without giving too much away.
Here's the basic outline: Boy and girl drive out to the deserted countryside to meet the boy's parents for dinner. Girl thinks about their brief relationship and gets repeated calls, which she ignores, from a mysterious person who has been harassing her for weeks. They meet the parents, who are nice enough, but something is a bit off. On the way back, battling a snowstorm, they take an unexpected detour where things turn south quickly.
I know it's a bit nondescript, but trust me, there's so much more going on beneath the surface. There's plenty to discuss besides the plot!
With a small cast of characters, Reid creates a very tightly condensed atmosphere brimming with unease. Things are not quite right, and there are clues hidden throughout, almost throwaway moments, that will bring everything to clarity at the conclusion. This is one of those books that you almost have to flip back to the beginning and read again once you've finished, trying to ferret out the pieces you missed before.
It's an intelligent book, but deceivingly so because it's so simply written. Very simple sentence structure, not a lot of flowing descriptions like you often see in "literary" fiction. But if you aren't paying attention—to paraphrase Ferris Bueller—you could miss it.
I seem to keep reading books back-to-back that have some sort of connection, and I kept seeing strings bridging this book to the last one I read, Imagine Me Gone. There is this interesting internal investigation, an examination of the mind with every conversation the boy and girl have, and at every moment you know there's potential that it's going to breach the edge of the dam and spill over, that the truth will come out even as some sort of destruction is imminent. Can you hang on long enough to find out what it is? Reid examines how the mind protects us and will do almost anything to shield us from harm's way.
Another way the tension is built is through intermittent uses of a collective narrator speaking from some moment in the future about something horrible that has happened, something that we don't know yet, but something that is coming, something we cannot stop the trajectory of. That is good writing. It reminding me of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the way tension is built and built by this group of narrators who already know the story, and then wrung out all at once, like the neck of some unsuspecting chicken. So good, so skin-crawlingly climactic in those last seconds that you feel nothing but shock. Get ready for a major dose of that with Reid's book.
It's definitely a psychological thriller, and you definitely will need to be paying attention to all the little details, or that moment at the end will just leave you with an unsatisfied "wha?" face instead of a "WHOA" moment.
If you like thrillers with a psychological twist but are tired of the same old-same old formulaic books, add this one to your to-read list! I can't wait to see what Reid comes up with next. He will be one to watch, carefully though, like you'd keep your eye on a hungry tiger.
Order your copy of I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Find out more about Iain Reid
Find out more about the publisher: Scout Press Books (Simon & Schuster)
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Assistant editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.