'After All I've Done' by Mina Hardy
'After All I've Done' by Mina Hardy, alternate pseudonym of author Megan Hart, is billed as a "thrilling new psychological suspense" title.
Though while the story is captivating, it's really not particularly thrilling or suspenseful. I find it interesting really and a testament to the author's writing chops that regardless of the fact I felt like there were zero surprises anywhere in the book.. everything being thoroughly telegraphed as I read, I still really enjoyed the experience. I was definitely invested enough to want to witness it all first hand and even read through the last 75% the second time I picked the book up.
"She's lost her best friend, her husband--and possibly, her mind."
Told from the perspectives of three people, Diana, Val, and later.. Cole, the story opens during Diana's recovery from an accident that left her broken.. both physically and psychologically. She has a huge gap in her memory from the summer around the accident and she isn't wholly convinced that the recurring nightmares she's been having aren't actually memories of some awful thing she's done.
Her former best friend Val has been sleeping with her husband Jonathan, but strangely enough Diana isn't the one who's angry. Val practically spits venom at her when they cross paths and won't speak to her at all by phone.
Then there's Cole. He's younger and attractive.. and pays attention to her at a time she seems to need a friend, but the closer they get.. the more she wonders how even he might fit into the puzzle.
Honestly, I think one of the biggest reasons I kept reading was validation. I had a very solid conviction as to what was happening and why.. and I guess I wanted to see if I was right.. or if Hardy might throw me a curveball somewhere. She didn't, but I was just as satisfied upon finishing the novel either way.
Choices made amongst the involved parties, certainly made for interesting dynamics. The personal interactions between all these people are so strained and only one of them feels truly genuine, that one.. coming late in the book.
I felt Hardy did an excellent job creating that tension between the characters. All the underlying moments that are plain to see around us if one is looking for them, small manipulations, personal slights, the things people hide or project with intent within relationships.. it's all here and it's actually brilliantly played out. Having lived some level of these types of behaviors myself, I spotted them immediately.. but the thing about seeing them is.. you're not always in a position to do anything about them, even when you're aware.
Which brings me to the other aspect Hardy played so well. The frustration and.. not really helplessness, but.. those moments when for whatever reason you're bound from acting in your own best interests. Those moments are vividly on display here.
There are a couple of moments in the conclusion where of course you're not sure of the outcome. You have all the pieces.. but they're up in the air and you're not sure where they're going to land. I must say, I was very happy with the way everything wrapped up.
If you enjoy a good dark, family drama.. this is well worth a read.. just don't be expecting it to catch you off guard.
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