Joe Goldberg meets Guinevere Beck in a cozy bookstore in the East Village and it is love at first sight. For Joe. Sadly, he forgets to ask for her number! Like any love sick person would do, he tracks her down using her credit card information, and finds the perfect opportunity on her Twitter feed to have a second ‘chance’ meeting to ask her out properly. While a bit of an extreme reaction to most, this is a perfectly reasonable solution to Joe, a serial stalker.
Joe will stop at nothing to insert himself into Beck’s life, even if it means removing the people in her life who don’t spark joy. By adjusting Beck’s social circle and watching her communication through her stolen phone, Joe worms his way into her life without her realizing the true extent of his devotion. Joe is not the staid, upstanding (if a bit boring), boyfriend she thinks him to be, but a deeply disturbed stalker, obsessed with every aspect of Beck.
Told from Joe’s perspective, this novel is somewhat unsettling. All his twisted rationale makes perfect sense when read from his viewpoint. While you know as the reader that everything he is thinking and doing are both criminal and deeply wrong, you can’t help but get swept up in the narrative he is creating for himself. Joe happens to be a weirdly likeable guy despite being a stalker and murderer with no conscience.
Kepnes does an amazing job confusing who you are rooting for by letting you get to know Joe as the hero he thinks he is, despite showing you every horrible thing he is thinking. Joe’s narrative also has you truly hating those he sees as harmful to Beck. You find yourself cheering him on as he brings them to their end even as you know what he is doing is wrong.
As the bodies start piling up, and Joe becomes more and more single-minded in his obsession, will he escape detection? Will Beck escape his love unscathed? And what outcome are you rooting for?! Well written, intense, and decidedly disturbing, this thriller is well worth a read!
Chelsea Iversen is a library technician at the Steveston Branch of the Richmond Public Library. I recently enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and have Hell and Damnation by Marq de Villiers on my bookshelf for later.