Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard


Published by Harlequin MIRA Books

4 stars


Sean Suh is done with killing. After serving three years in a psychiatric prison, he’s determined to stay away from temptation. But he can’t resist Annabelle–beautiful, confident, incandescent Annabelle–who alone can see past the monster to the man inside. The man he’s desperately trying to be.

Then Annabelle disappears.

Sean is sure she’s been kidnapped—he witnessed her being taken first hand—but the police are convinced that Sean himself is at the centre of this crime. And he must admit, his illness has caused him to “lose time” before. What if there’s more to what happened than he’s able to remember?

Though haunted by the fear that it might be better for Annabelle if he never finds her, Sean can’t bring himself to let go of her without a fight. To save her, he’ll have to do more than confront his own demons… He’ll have to let them loose.

This book ticked so many boxes for me – dark, violent, gritty romance with the ultimate unreliable narrator.
It’s going to be difficult to really review this book without giving away any of the many, many unexpected twists but I’ll do my best!
This book has some nice quirks to it that adds depth to the story; being set in the 80s and having a Korean protagonist based in Texas. This means the author adds in a few details of the casual racism Sean has to deal with every day, as well as adding a bit of background to his home life.

The setting and writing in this book are fantastic, I found myself being drawn in to all the places being described and hearing the voices of the people Sean talks to. Being inside his head is a terrifying experience, he has a history of violence and the overwhelming desire to hurt people but he’s trying not to give in to the feeling – of course, when the first girl he’s spoken to in years disappears, nobody believes anything he has to say. This is something that always frustrates and scares me, not being believed when you know you’re telling the truth, and the author exploits it to their best advantage.
Sean begins his own investigation into Annabelle’s disappearance and traces back into her past, doing so makes him look as guilty as hell to the police and as he’s on some hefty medication, he’s the epitome of an unreliable narrator and it’s impossible to tell how innocent he is in this situation.
One of my favourite threads throughout this story was Sean’s relationship with his mother – it forces you to form an opinion of her, through the eyes of a mentally ill and resentful son. Trying to understand her through that lens is really compelling.
This book is full of twists and turns, most of which I never saw coming – the best bit is that the suspense doesn’t just deflate once things are revealed, it keeps on going and going until the bitter end.
As mysteriously as I can put it… if the depiction of schizophrenia in the first part of the book bothers you as it did me, roll with it, it all becomes clear later on.


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