Just Like Mother

Tor Nightfire. May 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781250787514. $26.99. HORROR
In her first adult novel, YA author Heltzel (Charlie, Presumed Dead) introduces cousins Maeve and Andrea as children living in a matriarchal cult. The novel then flashes forward to an adult Maeve, who has escaped the cult and become a successful book editor, except that she is completely alone (save for a casual boyfriend and work friends). With no family and a murky past, Maeve deeply misses Andrea, who she hasn’t seen since leaving the cult. Then a DNA test reunites the cousins, and Andrea, now the wealthy CEO of a female-focused wellness empire, rushes back into Maeve’s life, offering her love, family, even wealth—but it may all be too good to be true. Maeve’s strong first-person narration (including scenes from her past that flood back to her) keeps the story moving and helps readers to both understand and root for Maeve, as her world begins to dangerously unravel. Readers might think they have the twists figured out, even as Maeve is clearly a few steps behind, but this hubris would be a grave mistake. Flooded with visceral dread from the first scene and never letting up, Heltzel’s tale that will disturb readers to their core.
VERDICT An excellent suggestion for fans of cult stories or intense horror-thriller hybrids such as those by Sarah Pinborough.
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