Published by St. Martin's Press on April 10, 2018
Nobody cuts deeper than family...
Noah Alderman, a doctor and a widower, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie, and for the first time in a long time he and his son are happy. But their lives are turned upside down when Maggie’s daughter Anna moves in with them. Anna is a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble that is brewing. Events take a deadly turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused of the crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her only daughter, but the realization that her daughter's murder was at the hands of a husband she loves. New information sends Maggie searching for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.
Maggie lost custody of her daughter, Anna, when she was still an infant. Years later, Anna – now almost 18 years old – gets in contact with her mother one bright Easter Sunday morning. Maggie – who has now remarried and has a doting husband and adorable stepson – is beyond overjoyed. Anna currently attends a boarding school in snowy, remote Maine where her father unceremoniously dumped her. Dear old dad has passed away in a plane crash, and Anna wants to take this chance to reconnect with her mother. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there …
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
I listened to After Anna as an audiobook, which worked well for the formatting of the novel. There are two narrators – Maggie and Noah, her husband. Told in a dual-perspective “before and after Anna” method, we learn early on that Noah – a mild-mannered pediatric allergist – is on trial for murder. Say what? Record scratch: trial for murdering his stepdaughter, Anna.
With Noah taking the “after Anna” chapters, we see him navigate a ten day trial, going over all of the damning evidence against him as his lawyer tries desperately to keep them both above water. Maggie, meanwhile, takes the helm of “before Anna,” discussing Anna’s move to their home in Pennsylvania, and the relationship she shared with her, a tenuous bond between mother and daughter who barely know each other. Noah promises upside down and sideways that he is not responsible for Anna’s tragic murder, but it certainly does not seem that way when the opposition gets to him in court.
We feel for Maggie – her desperate desire to not alienate her stepson and husband, while still forming a bond with her daughter. When Anna starts to express an intense dislike for Noah, citing him making advances on her she is uncomfortable with, Maggie becomes torn and anxious, afraid to lose either one of the people she holds closest to her heart. Her struggle really endeared her to me, and I found her to be such a strong female lead, which was awesome. Maggie is never going to sit around and let the world happen to her – she happens to the world.
The Bottom Line
After Anna is a domestic thriller with a gut-wrenching plot and a story that will keep you up at night wondering what you’d do in Maggie’s shoes. Would you defend your husband, or your daughter? And what if he is accused of murder, but swears up and down he did not do it – who do you believe, your husband or your daughter who can no longer speak for herself?
I took off half a star because there is a point near the end of the book where the police are doing some pretty important police things, and I am pretty sure Scottoline says “hustled” at least 15 times within 10 pages.
But seriously, if you like family dramas, domestic thrillers, courtroom mysteries … you’ll love this book. Give Anna a chance. (Or don’t. It’s your call).