The domestic thriller gets a different spin in Jenny Milchman’s fourth entertaining standalone novel. Instead of a family fending off threats from the outside, the terror comes from within the family in “As Night Falls.”
While Milchman keeps the suspense high and the tension taut throughout, the characters never quite rise to the plot’s standards that she has created. The characters aren’t likable, but the situation they are in is intriguing and that keeps the intense plot of “As Night Falls” on an upward spiral.
Sandy Tremont’s life is upended one dark, winter day when two convicts who have just escaped from a work detail invade her newly built mansion in a remote area of the Adirondacks. Until then, Sandy found fulfillment in her part-time work as a mental health counselor. Her struggles with her angst-filled 15-year-old daughter, Ivy, seemed typical for life with a teenager; and her marriage to Ben, a wilderness guide was, for the most part, happy.
But the huge, quiet Harlan Parker, who drove getaway cars for bank robbers, and sociopath Nick Burgess, convicted of murder, chose the Tremont house because they knew Ben would have enough survival equipment that they could use to cross the Canadian border on foot. But there also is a darker reason they chose this family — Nick is Sandy’s estranged brother, whose existence she has denied for more than 20 years. Nick is resentful of Sandy’s happiness, and his need to rob her of everyone and everything in her life is greater than his need to escape.
“As Night Falls” moves at a brisk pace, in the tradition of the classic novel and film “The Desperate Hours.” While the criminals’ actions are predictable for anyone who has read a thriller, Milchman’s energetic storytelling keeps the intrigue high. Flashbacks that show Nick and his oblivious, and clearly depressed, mother are well-devised and give context to the story. But Ivy’s anger, so palatable she is willing to sacrifice her family out of stubbornness, and Ben’s need to control his family no matter the situation are grating.
Despite the novel’s flaws, Mary Higgins Clark Award-winner Milchman knows how to build suspense that leads to a satisfying denouement
‘As Night Falls’