Upon discovering her husband’s dead body at the foot of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair, and flees town under a new assumed identity. She’s done this before, and in the midst of the plot twists that require her to change her name multiple times throughout the novel, the one thing that Lisa Lutz makes clear is Tanya’s weariness at running. Along the way, Tanya encounters Blue, a woman on the run from an abusive husband, and while Blue appears to be a useful ally, she has much more of an edge than Tanya does and may soon prove more dangerous than Tanya realizes.
The Passenger is a fun thriller. We know from the beginning that Tanya didn’t kill her husband, so the main mystery is about why Tanya is running away in the first place. Lutz drops us hints throughout, emails between a woman named “Jo” who is on the run, and a man named Ryan, who appears to have had a relationship with Jo in the past but has since moved on to a new life without her. I actually found those emails among the most compelling bits of this book, and the idea that even while someone’s world can go completely belly up, their friends and family’s lives can go on like normal. I really liked this, especially when added to Tanya’s obvious desire to be able to return home.
Lutz adds a couple other subplots just to spice things up, notably an encounter with a pair of hit men who want to kill Tanya, and a handsome sheriff who appears to want to know the real Tanya. Neither of these subplots really did it for me. The incident with the hit men added some suspense, but that sense of danger wasn’t really kept up through the rest of the novel. And the sheriff as potential love interest just struck me as odd, and detracted from the actual conflict in the plot.
I think the major drawback in the novel is the lack of clarity about why Tanya is on the run in the first place. I understand that this was a deliberate dramatic device, but while the various vignettes of Tanya under different identities were in themselves fast-paced, the novel as a whole lacked the escalating sense of danger. Tanya changed her appearance and identity multiple times in the novel, and while there was a clear reason for each identity change, I never really felt the overarching urgency behind her flight, the initial impetus to go on the run in the first place.
In contrast, the secondary character of Blue crackled on the page. Her motives were slippery throughout, but the main reason for her flight was clear, and I found her overall to be a more interesting character. I wish there had been a bit more of her in the book, or that Tanya’s character had a bit more of the spark that made Blue such a standout.
Still, overall The Passenger was a fun thriller, fast-paced and filled with twists. It’s a page-turner that will keep you entertained, and I especially love how Lutz delves into the wearying effects of being on the run.
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- The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
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- Still Mine by Amy Stuart
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Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for inviting me to join the #KickAssWomen blog promo, and for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.