Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 24th 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Publisher

You know the trite platitude, “It’s not you, it’s me?” that is often used when dissolving a relationship and rings about as true as a frog singing opera? That’s how I felt about this book. But we are moving far too fast in this review. Let’s return to the beginning.

I got to feet and walked over to the wooden dollhouse that she kept. A mouse family sat at the dining room table. I picked one up. Sat it on the roof of the house and tried jamming it down the chimney. It wouldn’t fit. I found a yellow Tonka truck and stuck one of the mouse doll’s into the driver’s seat. Then I placed the vehicle on the peaked roof of the dollhouse and gave the back bumper a little nudge. The truck and the doll went spilling onto the floor.

I smiled.

The biggest reason I wanted to read this book was because of the fantastic synopsis. I shall reproduce it for you as it appears on my copy of the ARC.

Two years ago, fifteen year old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know this one simple truth: she’s not the crazy one and never has been.

He is.

See? Wouldn’t you be intrigued by this synopsis? I was.

Jamie reads as this annoying suck-up that I wanted to smack on more than one occasion. His complete refusal to consider his sister as anything other than dangerous and psychotic annoyed me. His reliance on his shrink and his desire to not step over the lines where their foster parents are concerned did not seem organic (and I don’t think they were meant to) but as a deliberately cultivated front.

I don’t know what I can say about this novel without spoiling it entirely for future readers. I will try anyway.

In the tradition of thrillers such as Gone Girl that explore the bizarre depths of human nature and expose the cruelty and sickness (of personality and morality) a human being is capable of, Complicit explores the idea of evilness as an inherent trait. The novel also presents a discourse on society’s selective blindness where people are concerned. If a person superficially fits into the limits imposed by society then society is content to let them be no matter what heinous acts a more piercing look into these characters will expose.

Despite appreciating this, I ended up not liking the book as much as I know some of my friends did simply because I do not like books that leave me queasy and unsettled. I like my knots tied and my ends if not neat then settled in a way I can accept. I could not accept the ending because of reasons I cannot divulge without spoiling the story. So, let me just say this. If you liked Gone Girl, you will like Complicit. 

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