Rock Paper Scissors
By Alice Feeney
(295 pages, thriller, 2021)
What would life be like if you weren’t able to recognize anyone’s face — including your loved ones’? It would certainly be a challenge navigating day-to-day interactions; would you even be able to trust your sense of reality? Face blindness is a real condition, called prosopagnosia. It also plays heavily into the plot of Alice Feeney’s thrilling new novel, Rock Paper Scissors.
Married couple Adam and Amelia Wright have driven through a snowstorm to a converted chapel in the remote Scottish countryside as a last-ditch effort to save their relationship. From the first pages, it is evident that this couple has lost their way, both literally (they’re driving through thick falling snow in a completely unfamiliar, eerie landscape), and figuratively — married for ten years, both characters hint at a past that has broken them apart. The strain on their relationship partially stems from Adam’s frustrating condition; he suffers from prosopagnosia, and therefore cannot recognize anyone, even his wife. He also has difficulty reading facial expressions, so you can imagine how this would be a struggle in communication. Both Adam and Amelia suggest that they’ve wronged one another deeply. They resent each other for reasons that slowly become clear as the book progresses.
The setting and atmosphere that Feeney creates is a strong draw for this book. The untamed Scottish countryside seems to close in all around Adam and Amelia, and they often feel that someone is watching them. They eventually arrive at the spooky converted chapel, and strange occurrences begin happening almost immediately. At times these odd experiences bring Adam and Amelia closer together, and at other times, it pushes them further apart. Some events seem to point to a supernatural cause, while others appear to be instigated by human action.
The strange experiences soon turn sinister when Amelia gets trapped in the cold basement, and the dark history of the house becomes apparent. Who or what has it out for Adam and Amelia? Are they both plotting against one another? Each narrator in this book is extremely unreliable, which I found enjoyable. I didn’t know who to trust and I didn’t necessarily find either main character likeable — but they are both extremely compelling and full of depth. This book was highly unpredictable with a unique premise. The cold ambiance of the setting combined with Adam and Amelia’s chilly behavior toward one another, as well as the increasingly harrowing events of the plot, will surely make you want to curl up with a big blanket while reading this novel. I found it to be the perfect read for the snowy, wintery weather, and it satisfied my love for suspenseful thrillers with unusual characters.
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