Right House (2013)
Reviewed by Madeleine Sullivan for Reader Views (02/14)
“Dead Dreams” is book one in a psychological thriller and mystery series by Emma Right. Eighteen-year-old Brie O’Mara, after graduating high school, has moved into an apartment by herself, so that she can get some independence from her very involved and overly concerned parents. Brie dreams of attending acting school in New York City and is working two jobs so that she can pursue that dream. In order to save living costs, she finds a flat mate, Sarah McIntyre, on Craigslist. Twenty-year-old Sarah McIntyre doesn’t seem like any sort of creepy serial killer, and her wealthy familial background means she won’t have any trouble paying the rent—she paid her first share with twenty-four one hundred dollar bills.
Of course, this all seems too normal to follow the creepy prologue, in which the narrator muses that each dead, human body has its own unique scent. How does Brie go from successful, driven actress-to-be to friendless fugitive, contemplating homicides? The question of how this progression precedes is precisely where “Dead Dreams” holds its own as a psychological thriller. As the story progresses, Brie finds herself, forced by her own past choices, into more and more difficult situations, where her gut can’t guide her and the best option often feels like the worst.
I would say I enjoyed “Dead Dreams”: it was compelling and captivating and, once I got into it, I read it in one day. I couldn’t decide if Brie was confusingly presented as both overly naive and overly responsible, however it may be that I feel myself caught in the same juxtaposition as a college student and am thus more critical of attempts at bridging this dichotomy. That said, I often found Brie hard to empathize with and just got frustrated with her stupidity.
The writing was clear and kept the storyline moving, however, the book was poorly edited, and there were lots of errors, especially in the line breaks, some of which tampered with the readability.
About halfway through the book, her family’s pastor, who has been concerned through Brie’s mother, starts to become more intentional. Brie has had nightmares and her pastor has some biblical advice about interpreting dreams. This plot development threw me off a little bit, but I could see further development in the next book clarifying and grounding this—it felt maybe a bit too mystical to be used as an actual plot point.
Overall, I would recommend this psychological mystery thriller to perennial fans of the genre. “Dead Dreams” was a fun, light (as in not too difficult, not as in fun and breezy), and engaging read, with enough twists and turns to keep you reading, but not too heavy or overblown to feel like a chore or leave you in a disconcerted mood at the end of the book.