Saturday, January 27, 2024

Midnight on Beacon Street by Emily Ruth Verona

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A suspenseful and entertaining debut thriller—and love letter to vintage horror movies—in which a teenager must overcome her own anxiety to protect the two children she’s babysitting when strangers come knocking at the door.

October 1993. One night. One house. One dead body.

When single mom Eleanor Mazinski goes out a for a much-needed date night, she leaves her two young children —sweet, innocent six-year-old Ben and precocious, defiant twelve-year-old Mira— in the capable hands of their sitter, Amy. The quiet seventeen-year-old is good at looking after children, despite her anxiety disorder. She also loves movies, especially horror flicks. Amy likes their predictability; it calms the panic that threatens to overwhelm her.

The evening starts out normally enough, with games, pizza, and dancing. But as darkness falls, events in this quaint suburban New Jersey house take a terrifying turn —unexpected visitors at the door, mysterious phone calls, and by midnight, little Ben is in the kitchen standing in a pool of blood, with a dead body at his feet.

In this dazzling debut novel, Emily Ruth Verona moves back and forth in time, ratcheting up suspense and tension on every page. Chock-full of nods to classic horror films of the seventies and eighties, Midnight on Beacon Street is a gripping thriller full of electrifying twists and a heartwarming tale of fear and devotion that explores our terrors and the lengths we’ll go to keep our loved ones safe.

I didn't like Midnight on Beacon Street as much as I thought I would. I assumed it would be a quick read since it's a short book, but I never felt compelled to pick it up. I would see it sitting somewhere and think, "Oh, I should finish that." The story simply wasn't captivating and the characters weren't very likeable. Whether that's from a lack of development or dull descriptions, it's difficult to say. It's hard to care about characters when you don't know enough for them to matter.

I wasn't a fan of the overall pacing. Typically flashbacks are used to help readers understand what's happening in the present, or to give a character more depth, but these felt like random instances in someone's life. After finishing the book, I can see what the author was maybe hoping to highlight, but I don't feel like the information gleaned from those moments was all that helpful. I think I would have preferred a more linear storytelling for this book. The back and forth overcomplicated the story.

The abbreviations of their names was also something I found annoying. M? B? I would have preferred the author just used their names instead, since it did take a few chapters for me to associate letters with people. It was too much mental work.

Did I anticipate who the "bad guy" was? No. However, I think that goes back to the lack of character development. It could have been anyone... though I'm still not entirely sure what motivated them. There was too much background noise. Verona says a lot without actually saying anything at all. The ending itself was very underwhelming. 

I didn't DNF the book because it wasn't very long. Although, I was tempted to just skip to the end, see who the killer was, and then move on. I think I would have enjoyed Midnight on Beacon Street more if the characters had been fleshed out, the flashbacks had been more informative, and the pacing had been a little quicker. (★★⋆☆☆)

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes used in this review are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.