A new page-turner from ‘Big Little Lies’ author
Liane Moriarty is a master of sustained tension. You’d think her a diabolical sadist if her novels didn’t also make you wish she were a friend you could meet for coffee and a spot of gossip. But she does delight in delaying a reveal, as fans of her smash hit “Big Little Lies” know, having waited until the final pages - or frames if they watched the HBO miniseries - to find out not just whodunit, but who was dead. Moriarty’s latest novel, “Nine Perfect Strangers,” is a lockeddoor mystery, but the mystery itself remains a mystery for much of the book. There’s a general sense of foreboding that builds, but what it’s building to and which of the nine is and isn’t a victim is a perplexing puzzle.
The titular strangers converge on a remote luxury health resort, Tranquillum House, where they’re promised not just rejuvenation, but reinvention. Many are unhappy with their physical selves. Most are recovering from emotional wounds or avoiding major life decisions. The majority arrive alone, though one couple hoping to save their marriage and another with their college-aged daughter emphasize the ways in which we can be strangers even to those who should know us best.
Their socioeconomic differences matter because soon after the retreat begins the group is asked to observe a “noble silence” meant to clear everyone’s heads. The
By Liane Moriarty
Flatiron. 464 pp. $28.99 silence envelops the group as it becomes increasingly clear to readers that - even those who’ve never set an unmanicured toe in a spa - they should be bolting for the exits. As the staff begins manipulating the guests in truly bizarre ways, the strangers form opinions of the other characters based on their own assumptions, insecurities and vulnerabilities.
Alternating narrators usher us through brisk chapters providing glimpses into the inner thoughts of each character. Our main guide is an author, Frances. It’s clear that Moriarty is having a bit of fun with us and it’s through Frances that we’re let in on the joke.
Whether you enjoy this novel or find it confounding will largely come down to whether you feel you’re in on the joke or that it’s being made at your expense.