The two of them came to life beneath the string lights of the gazebo
Leah Konen’s All the Broken People is all about the twists and the epic turns – the kind that send you crashing into a tree, dazed and confused, wondering how on earth you got there. It begins with a premise à la Elisabeth Moss’ The Invisible Man, or even something akin to Julia Roberts’ Sleeping With the Enemy. Our protagonist Lucy is in the same predicament, running away from her abusive boyfriend and moving to a new town to start over. Yet the shadow of Davis hangs over everything, with Lucy having to account for every single thing in her new house just so she can reassure herself that she’s free of him.
Despite her obvious trust issues, she allows herself to open up to her new neighbours Vera and John, who become sort-of parents to her, in replacement of the family she’s lost. Konen paints for us the isolation and paranoia of Lucy’s world, an individual so impulsive and desperate for love that she didn’t see the warning signs when it came to Davis, which only makes us think it’s going to happen again. Vera and John take her under their wing, but they are on the outs with everyone else in town, with John’s name tied to a scandal that no one wants to let go or forget.
Feeling the heat, Vera and John conspire to fake John’s death, and Lucy volunteers to help them, on the condition that they take her with them. This is where the narrative takes a turn, because I was expecting a story about a woman trying to outrun and outsmart her abuser, and instead we are now left to ponder who murdered John for real. There aren’t many suspects, but Konen’s writing is so effective you somehow find the suspect eluding you. You hazard a guess only to flip flop immediately when someone else starts looking suspicious.
I, much like Lucy, discovered that I wasn’t the best judge, because the culpable ones were simply not on my radar. And just so you know, even when you figure out who is behind the murder, Konen still has secrets up her sleeve for the conclusion, where you will find yourself stunned once again, blaming yourself for trusting a flawed narrator like Lucy.
Lucy is an interesting protagonist, in the sense that I can’t really relate to her and the choices she makes, but yet I can understand the anger that colours her world. It is a destructive thing this anger, spilling into her relationships, her worldview, an anger she keeps running away from, never pausing to piece together the broken parts of herself.
…that I’d learnt to adapt to a world where anger – or female anger, at least – wasn’t allowed
All the Broken People does seem to operate in the same vein as The Girl on the Train, where we have main protagonists that are unreliable and drink a bit too much. I understand Lucy using alcohol as a way to numb and escape her painful reality, but seeing as how she is in hiding, I would think the urge to be more careful should have struck her more. Maybe it’s a testament to how comfortable she is with Vera and John, but she imbibes whenever she’s alone or whenever alcohol is available, so it seems like a reflex, one that she doesn’t seem to check.
Like I said, I guess I can’t really relate to her, but that’s the joy of fiction, to be able to step outside yourself and see things from a different lens. In any case, Konen delivers a competent, page-turning thriller, and if you’re looking for something like that to sink your teeth into, well, you won’t have to look far.
Review copy provided.
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While Leah Konen's protagonist isn't the most relatable character, Konen's All the Broken People is a competent thriller, heavy on the twists and spills.
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