A lakeside community turns ominous in Megan Miranda’s latest thriller
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Miranda is the perennially New York Times-bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Last House Guest. She doles out enough twists to keep plot-happy readers occupied, while also infusing her cast of characters with deep emotions and conflicted motivations. She weaves humanity into her stories, which always tackle deeper themes than just whodunnit.
Such A Quiet Place is no exception. Hollow’s Edge is an outwardly charming lakeside community full of families, with access to green space and the nearby college, and an active homeowner’s association.
Joining the association also includes an invite to “a private message board, not officially regulated, initially set up with the best of intentions,” Miranda writes of the area’s Nextdoor doppelgänger. “It became a different beast after the deaths of Brandon and Fiona Truett.”
Harper Nash lives on her own in Hollow’s Edge. After her boyfriend left, she’d taken on a roommate, Ruby. As the novel opens, we learn that Ruby’s been in jail for more than a year, convicted of poisoning the Truetts. But the courts have overturned Ruby’s sentence, and she walks into Harper’s house like she still belongs.
Ruby’s reappearance kick-starts this story of a neighborhood that wants to believe it’s close-knit and idyllic. The reality is far more isolating, and often sinister. Harper is a people-pleaser who finds it hard to say no to Ruby, who has a sociopath’s charismatic personality and penchant for mischief. That pits Harper against all of her neighbors, who alternate between shock and disdain at Ruby’s return.
Miranda is intensely interested in the difference between our public and private selves. “We’ve always been great pretenders here,” she writes. Her Hollow’s Edge includes couples who smile on the street and fight in their backyards, teen-age girls who skulk around after dark in the woods and mothers who mask their parenting insecurities with lemonade face-offs.
It’s against this backdrop that Ruby and, eventually, Harper begin digging into the truth of what happened at the Truetts’ house 14 months ago. Home security camera evidence and a zealous neighborhood watch both play large here, as does the collective push towards neighborhood groupthink. By the time everyone gathers at a July 4 picnic, frazzled nerves abound, and more death is on its way.
Such A Quiet Place features classic hallmarks of suspense, including threatening notes, creaking back gates and plenty of misdirection. And the insular nature of Hollow’s Edge recalls Agatha Christie-style country-house mysteries. But these familiar trappings merely gild a story that asks the most essential of questions: Who are we, when no one is looking?
(Simon and Schuster, July 13, 2021)