Ava Collette, still reeling from a tragedy that haunts her, decides to leave Boston and rent out a luxurious, newly renovated mansion in a remote village in Maine for the summer. She hopes the time away will give her the space she needs to finish the cookbook she’s writing.
But everything is not as it seems in coastal Maine. When she arrives, the mansion is still under construction and she starts hearing disturbing stories about its history. Rumor has it that Captain Jeremiah Brodie, who had the mansion built specifically for him long ago, still haunts the house and grounds. And sure enough, Ava begins catching glimpses of a tall, dark, and handsome stranger.
Then those glimpses turn into something more, and Ava begins to question her sanity. Mysterious sounds and visits in the night, bruises she can’t explain, and more, lead her to search out more information about Captain Brodie and this mysterious mansion with its many secrets.
It turns out every woman who has lived in this house over the years has also died in it, and Ava doesn’t know whether it’s the ghost of Captain Brodie at work or if a real-life killer is living among the residents of the tiny village. But she’s determined to find out.
Okay, so, this book. I have… some thoughts. Most of them not great.
First of all, I am a HUGE Tess Gerritsen fan. I have read 21 of her books and short stories, and have almost all of her books as first edition hardcovers. So, the opportunity to read an ARC of this one on NetGalley was too good to pass up.
Most Gerritsen fans know she got her start as a Harlequin romance author before transitioning to suspense and hitting it big, first with her medical thrillers like Harvest and then her Rizzoli & Isles series, all of which I love.
The Shape of Night is definitely more Harlequin than suspense, which I wasn’t really expecting. I had gone in thinking this was a straight up gothic thriller based on the description, and yes, there are elements of that, but this is more 50 Shades of Grey with ghosts than anything else. And I was not prepared for that. I mean, pretty much every chapter had graphic and explicit sexual scenes, most of them not consensual. Ava’s straight up telling the ghost of Captain Brodie “no” in several scenes and he’s just like “I’m only doing what you secretly want me to,” and I mean, what??? Frankly, I’m really surprised that a book like this would even be accepted and published in the midst of the #MeToo movement. It’s discouraging, especially coming from an author I love so much, who usually writes such strong, empowering female characters.
And, I mean, I’ve read a few of Gerritsen’s Harlequin romances, and they’re way more tame sexually than this book. So, it felt really out of left field compared to any of her other books, romance or suspense.
And look, for those who are fans of 50 Shades, I think you’ll probably like this book. No one can argue with the fact that Gerritsen is a great writer. She knows how to craft a story that keeps you turning pages. But I feel like the marketing department really missed the mark with this book because positioning it as gothic suspense when it’s really paranormal romance feels misleading. And the elements of rape and sexual assault are incredibly disappointing. I know most publishers aren’t keen on trigger warnings, but this is a book that could have used one, especially when its genre is (in my opinion) completely miscategorized, which will lead to even more readers being unprepared for some of the main story elements.
Overall, this is by far my least favorite of Gerritsen’s books. Even if you took out the many problematic elements I’ve already mentioned, the “mystery” itself felt lackluster. You could spot the bad guy a mile away and there weren’t any unpredictable twists and turns plot-wise. Two out of five stars for me.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Photo by Alisa Williams.