We Were Never Here

Ballantine. Aug. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781984820464. $27. THRILLER
In Bartz’s (The Herd; The Lost Night) third novel, Emily and Kristin, best friends since college and as close as sisters, take an annual vacation to a far-flung place. The trip has become more precious since Kristin moved away to Australia, leaving Emily in Milwaukee. Emily is finally feeling back on track after the previous year’s trip to Vietnam ended in tragedy, when Kristin saw Emily being attacked and killed the man. On the last night of this year’s trip to Chile, Emily returns to the room to find that Kristin had been assaulted by a guy and killed him in self-defense. Trauma renewed, Emily tries to distance herself from Kristin but finds Kristin both unfazed and moving closer. Emily starts to question what she knows about her friend, the plot twisting and the tension building toward a surprising but somewhat confusing ending.
VERDICT This gripping and thoughtful novel with a self-aware protagonist considers feminism and the psychology of memory while never losing its pace. This book will appeal to readers of psychological thrillers such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train.
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