The descriptive bit: Walter Mitchell, a New Yorker, walks into his local police station at the beginning of this novel and confesses to kidnapping a thirteen-year-old. Then the story of his history begins.
Walter is a young math prodigy and at eighteen he lands a job in the twin towers. He meets and marries Sterling, who is ten years his elder. He’s overjoyed when he finds out that his wife is pregnant and his daughter, Olivia quickly becomes the light of his life. When his best friend dies in the Twin Tower attacks, Walter’s life seems to begin unraveling.
Walter prefers to be home parenting Olivia and her friend, Amanda rather than working or spending time with his wife. He doesn’t enjoy the pretentious lifestyle that Sterling seeks out.
Slowly, Walter’s attachment to Amanda morphs into something uncomfortable, and eventually potentially dangerous.
My thoughts bit: This is a challenging book to review. The subject matter is very uncomfortable and I’m not even sure how to review it. It was interesting enough that I kept reading … I was definitely intrigued enough to want to know how things ended.
Let’s talk about Walter. I liked Walter at the beginning of the novel. He was a sympathetic character. His sister died when he was young, his parents were absent at best, he lost his best friend during the Twin Towers attack and then finally his wife and daughter move out.
Amanda is the next door neighbor’s daughter and the friend of Walter’s daughter. But, long after Olivia loses interest in her friend, Walter keeps finding reasons to see her. The interesting part about the relationship between Walter and Amanda is that he creates boundaries in his mind of what’s crossing a line into being inappropriate. Now, I would argue that any relationship between a thirty-year-old man and a thirteen-year-old girl he’s not related to … is inappropriate. Somehow, Walter convinces himself that Amanda is getting the love she needs from him, and even though he has a clear physical desire for her, he doesn’t act on it.
The reason I struggle with reviewing the book is that the relationship between these two characters made me uncomfortable from beginning to end. Kudos to Maher for making me squirm in my seat as Walter and Amanda sat next to each other on the couch, barely touching and I still found myself horrified. I did find myself wishing that Walter’s character had been developed more fully. There were lots of reasons for me to feel sympathetic towards him, but I just didn’t. In fact, I found him rather frustrating. Sure, he tries to set boundaries, but he lets them be broken time and again. Despite the fact that he knows what he is doing is wrong, he continues to do it.
I also couldn’t help wondering how none of the adults in the book caught on to the fact that this totally inappropriate relationship was happening. Walter even went so far as to confess to Amanda’s mother that their relationship was dangerous and she does … nothing. Walter’s wife comments on it… and does nothing. Everyone seems to think that Walter is harmless and could never do something so terrible and I found that a bit unbelievable.
The overall premise of the book is interesting. There certainly is an argument to be made that thought crime isn’t a crime. But I felt as though the story didn’t go far enough… because I do think that Walter crossed clear lines. My respect to the author for tackling such an uncomfortable subject!
The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of.
In this book: Infidelity, inappropriate relationship between older man and an underage female, kidnapping (technically).
I received an ARC of The Best of Crimes by K.C. Maher from RedDoor Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.