Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult
Rating: 4 STARS
Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.
All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?
As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.
Follow Me Down is a rare find—a gutsy, visceral, and beautifully crafted psychological thriller.
“My first thought was my mother had started another fire.”
Nothing is better than reading a book that lives up to its gorgeous cover (LOOK AT IT. IT’S SO PRETTY). I am jealous of anyone who manages to get a hold of a physical copy of this book, since I only got an e-ARC. But I’m so glad that I received this one through Netgalley, because it was oh so good.
(Also, stay tuned! I got the opportunity to interview the author, and it will be below the review!)
I was definitely pulled into requesting this one because of the synopsis, and I’m so glad to say that it definitely delivered. I’m a huge fan of thrillers in which the main character used to live in a small town, and has no choice but to go back to the bad memories to solve a conflict, and this one definitely reminded me of why I’m such a huge fan of them. If you were a big fan of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, you’ll probably fall in love with this one like I did.
The pacing of this book was A+. Once I started this book, I could barely put it down, especially near the halfway point where we kept discovering new things and clues kept popping up and I just absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. Personally, I thought this book was pretty much perfectly-paced, and a fantastic balance between being extremely tense, but slowing it down when it was necessary. I thought the way that the entire case unfolded was quite realistic, especially regarding the police work (even though that 100% frustrated me to death that the police wouldn’t listen to Mia, I swear to God). Not to mention that I was completely mislead about where this book was going, and it’s always a mark in my book when a thriller can truly surprise me.
The main character of this novel is Mia Haas, who was quite interesting. Usually, I’m not one to care too much about characters in thrillers, but who can resist a pharmacist who’s addicted to pills herself? I also really loved the relationships between her and her family, which was a great way to build character. Even though Lucas isn’t in the book too much, I definitely got that sort of twin bond between the two of them, and you could definitely feel the love that she had for her brother, which was what made her complex feelings towards the case so real. And we also get to see the complicated relationship between Mia and her mother growing up, and even in the present, which I really loved. A lot of relationships get explored often in thrillers – married couples, parents and their children, best friends, even siblings – but I’ve rarely seen such a huge focus on characters and their parents, and I really enjoyed it and thought it included a pretty interesting perspective.
Overall, if the premise interests you and you love small towns with big secrets, you should 100% read this book!
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley. A huge thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Sherri Smith for granting me a copy!
And now, for what you guys were waiting for! I got the opportunity to interview Sherri Smith for my blog, and it was so much fun (and my first ever author interview eep!)! She’s such a sweetheart, and I really enjoyed reading her answers, so I hope you enjoy the interview!
1. What made you want to write your first psychological thriller since your other published books are in different genres?
It was really a combination of things. I love reading about history, but when writing historical fiction I was getting snagged on the details too much. The research was grueling and I was way too preoccupied with getting the historical time period just right and writing quickly became too stifling and clinical for me. I’d get too panicky about all the wrong things and realized I was avoiding the story I’d been working on at the time and I knew it was time to move on. I wasn’t happy doing it.
As well, both of my historical fiction novels are a tad on the dark side, especially the second one, and they weren’t exactly fitting in with the expectations of the genre. So I’d been heading in this direction long before I realized it.
2. Following up with the first question: were there any particular books that inspired you to write this one?
Well, I was reading Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing when I had this ground-shifting revelation about my writing. I just fell in love with it. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.
From there I read as much as possible in the genre. Gillian Flynn is also a major influence. I’m in awe of her novels, they just get everything right. Same as Tana French, Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter and Chevy Stevens.
3. Small towns with a lot of secrets are becoming a sort of trend in thrillers that I’m really enjoying! How did you make your small town different than other thrillers’ small towns, and were there any books that inspired yours?
Good question! First, the city I live in is unique in the way that we don’t have a thriving downtown area. This is probably because we have long, killer winters with ice-slick roads, blistering windchills and snow-drifts so high that turning into traffic is a blind-gamble with your life. And so, this makes going too far out of the zone one lives in, well, unappealing. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a hardy people, we do go for leisure walks in blizzards, but just in our own areas, so we can make it back home via sheer muscle memory if necessary. Anyway, this all plays into the feel of living in a very small town. So it’s certainly a setting I am familiar with.
As well, like you, I just love small town settings. The town in Sharp Objects was a huge inspiration; it was so recognizable to me. As well the small-town settings in Stephen King’s novels where you think you know everyone, because you see them every day. You get a little too comfortable with the people around you, that they won’t spill out of the box you expect them to stay in and when they do, it makes it all the more terrifying.
4. I though this book was quite dark, and I’ve always been a fan of dark thrillers. Was there anything special you had to do to write from such a dark place?
Not really. I think I just naturally lean that way. Maybe it’s an urge to make the incomprehensible, comprehensible.
5. Mia is quite the interesting character, and I loved following her story. What was it like getting into the headspace of Mia, especially with what she’s dealing with?
Thank-you! Going into Mia’s head wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I wished she’d share a few of her pills with me, to smooth out the ride, but I think with writing any character you just have to find the threads that connect with you. I have two brothers. Again the small town thing was familiar. I certainly share Mia’s sense of humor, especially how it buoys up when she’s feeling particularly low. I’m a laugh while you cry sort of person too. So I sort of took those commonalities and went from there. And while I wouldn’t necessarily do much of what she did in the book, her actions made sense to me.
6. I’ve always been fascinated by how authors come up with their ideas for their books. How did you get the idea for this novel?
Follow Me Down started with an image of a semi-rundown apartment block with a rusty look pool in the back. There’s a teen girl in the pool, floating on an air mattress. She has that look girls this age can have, a kind of mournful sadness. I kept wondering, who is this girl? Why is she so sad? Who did she lose? Does she belong there or not? From there, a plot and characters eventually swirled together in the right way.
7. I’ve always wanted to ask this question to an author of a thriller novel: Did the mystery and the conclusion of said mystery unfold in the final version of the novel like it did in the first draft, if there was one? Did anything change?
The ending kind of revealed itself through multiple drafts. While this might sound artsy, it’s not. I had a slew of competing ideas (because I am a really indecisive writer) of where I wanted it to go and one just simply won out. So things definitely kept changing as I wrote.
8. I found it really interesting how this book focused so heavily on mothers. What influenced the broken relationships between some of the characters and their mothers?
Such a good question! Having a bad parent can set you up for a certain level of adult misery. Or so I say, because I am an armchair psychologist and it seems like a given truth. Anyway, I am overly preoccupied with being a good mother in real life that it borders on neurotic, and so maybe it was a covert away to air out my anxieties of being a bad one.
As well, just like in real life, you only really feel like you know someone if you know a bit about their history. Why they act the way they do, how they acquired their worldview and so on. I wanted that level intimacy to be there with Mia. I wanted you to feel like you knew her, the way Lucas might have, and that way you would better sympathize with her journey.
9. Expanding more on the previous question (and because it was just so interesting), what was writing the relationship between Joanna and Kathy like?
It was a bit like taking an outsider’s view of Mia and Mimi’s relationship. It was that kind of mother-daughter relationship people would heavily suspect was off in some way, but wouldn’t challenge it because they didn’t know for sure. Is this mother just really, enthusiastically supportive of her daughter or is she controlling? I think we’ve all encountered these kinds of relationships that make us suspicious of something we can’t exactly put a finger on.
10. I see you’ve written two historical fiction novels. How different was it writing a thriller rather than a historical fiction novel, or were there no differences at all?
There was certainly far less research! I actually went out of my way to not research anything for Follow Me Down because I was so totally research-fatigued from my historical fiction novels.
There wasn’t much difference in trying to create good, strong characters because I think that’s every author’s approach, but coming up with a twisty plot was very different and one of my favorite parts. I love the puzzle aspect of trying to pull it all tighter and when it clicked, it was the best feeling!
11. What are some of your favorite authors that inspire you?
There are so many authors who inspire me. Honestly I could go on for days. Books are my life’s playlist, which author, what book I was obsessed with at any given time reflects a lot of what I was feeling in that period. But now, today, those obsessions are Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Meg Abbott, Mo Hayder, Alex Marwood, Chevy Stevens, Hilary Davidson, Stephen King (always,) Gilly MacMillan. There’s more, but I’ll stop here.
12. Any books that you’d highly recommend everyone must read?
Well I’d have to split it into categories to a do a good job of it. Such as, top recommended book to give you night terrors? The Silence of the Lambs.
Recommended magical realist book? One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Recommended unlikable characters with a cool plot twist? Nick and Amy in Gone Girl.
Recommended unreliable narrator? Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.
Recommended book with a clown? It by Stephen King
Recommended long-suffering artist biography? The Tragic Honest: The Life and Works of Richard Yates.
Recommended graphic novel? I don’t know, but I am loving iZombie on Netflix right now!
See? This could go late into the night, so I should probably stop now.
Does this book interest you? If you’ve already read it, what did you think about it? What did you think about the author interview?
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