The Other Family: A Novel of Suspense by Wendi Corsi Staub

“It doesn’t really matter, does it? Who cares what happened years ago?”

“I do, it happened in our house.”

“Every house has a history, Stacey.”

“Yeah, not a triple homicide mom.”

If Nora and her husband Keith imagined the macabre history of their new home wouldn’t absorb their daughters’ Piper and Stacey’s imagination, than they don’t know much about their girls. A triple homicide, nay- a ‘heinous’ triple homicide, changes a place. How can they sleep in rooms where people were slain? It doesn’t matter that is was 25 years ago, because the killer was never found and Piper fears the murderer could return. Nora wants them to let it rest, it’s old news, this is meant to be a positive change from their lives in California and the last thing she wants is anyone dwelling on the past. But Stacey isn’t so sure, she has seen shadows and a man sitting across the street who seemed ‘off’ somehow. She can’t share her fears with Piper, Piper spills too much and then they will all worry about her. In this family, Stacey is the odd one with her moods and quirks. The one who needs therapy.

For gorgeous Nora, Brooklyn is a chance for her girls to get the hang of city life, despite her husband’s misgivings. He doesn’t think her California blood can handle a year in New York, which couldn’t be further from the sunshine and “cushiness” of LA that she is used to. She wants this to work out and maybe they will even stay for good so why does she feel so wary, nervous even now that they’re here? Her life is as perfect as it gets, she has everything she wants. Their brownstone is huge, beautiful but all she can envision is blood on the walls, the murdered family. Working in their garden, she hits upon a rectangular box, but it is what’s inside that will set off alarm bells. She is the envy of her neighbor, having grown up in California and blessed with her beauty but no one lives a perfect life. The family portrait from the 1800’s that came with the house is a reminder to remember the dead, but how can an old photo be sinister itself?

For Jacob, the past lingers and tugs at him. The crime that occurred in 1994 may have faded from the newspapers and people’s minds, but is still fresh in his soul. He is obsessed with one of the victims, and fears she may have suffered greatly, though hopes she didn’t. It doesn’t sit well with him that a new family has moved in after the house has laid empty for so many years but it’s not like they’re coming back.

Stacey goes deeper into the tragedy and finds a friend in Lennon, she isn’t used to being so vulnerable and open with others. Can she trust him? Someone is following her, some street person, has he mistaken her for someone else? Despite her digging into the past there is so much left undiscovered, facts she can’t possibly unearth. She confides secrets in Lennon, but is keeping so much from her parents but they have their secrets too. Nora’s mind is playing games with her memories, and she knows Stacey is keeping things from her. She isn’t sold on Lennon either but he may not be the real threat. Who is?

The story alternates between Nora, Stacey and Jacob. It is an easy read, I just wish Jacob was more developed as a character. I also wanted to stay with each voice longer, I never sank deeply enough into Nora nor Jacob. Stacey was interesting, she actually felt like a teenager to me for once, so many books write teenagers who seem far too wise for their years. She is the right balance of insecure and hungry to make her own choices. The novel left me with questions but it was still an interesting ending-I just wish for more background. I think had it been longer, this would have been achieved. I am not sure how plausible it is, but truth is stranger than fiction so who knows. Good dark mystery.

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

William Morrow and Custom House

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