It’s been twenty years since Ruby left Stoneybrook, Montana, having vowed to never return.
Throughout her childhood, her manipulative mother Ida forced her to join her schemes, exploiting Ruby to ravage the local community with false mediumship and psychic scams.
With her mother missing and presumed dead, she’s forced to return to settle her affairs. However, Ruby has her doubts – what really happened to Ida?
The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca is a mystery thriller that focuses on the life of thirty-something Ruby.
On receiving a call from her old flame, Aidan, she must go home to settle her presumed dead mother’s affairs.
It’s been twenty years since Ruby Carlson fled Stoneybrook, Montana, and she vowed to never return.
A teenage runaway, she has lived an idyllic life in England since she was eighteen and enjoys a successful career as an archaeologist.
Now she’s back in a place brimming with disturbing memories and horrific secrets. Here, she must uncover the truth, what really happened to Ida?
Additionally, she also hopes to rekindle her bond with Aidan and then get as far away from Stoneybrook as possible.
Escaping a nightmare childhood
The novel is told from Ruby’s perspective throughout with dual timelines, each chapter offering either a present or past account. This allows the reader to understand the extent of Ida’s manipulation, coercion and control of Ruby in her childhood and the damage it’s caused in adulthood.
Essentially, Ruby must now unravel the truth amidst half-truths, whispers, lies and secrets. DeLuca knows how to keep the reader interested, masterfully revealing snippets of information throughout to guide us through the mystery and keep us hooked.
As we reflect on the chapters set in the past, we see that ultimately, Ruby’s life was very lonely. Her only childhood joy was her friendship and courtship with Aidan. Thankfully, DeLuca weaves a blossoming and charming relationship between them in their youth.
As a teenager and spurred on by Aidan, we see Ruby’s confidence develop. Eventually, rebelling leads to her ultimate goal, freedom.
Uncovering the mystery of Ida’s disappearance
However, on her return to Montana in the present, we can almost sympathise with the community in Stoneybrook. Understandably, feelings haven’t changed toward Ruby and her mother. Ostracised by most, their past contempt is a feeling Ruby remembers all too well.
In turn, this treatment also seems unfair. Essentially, Ida forced a young Ruby into her fraudulent schemes, exploiting her ‘gift’ to ravage the local community, especially those she perceived as vulnerable. DeLuca creates a myriad of complex relationships due to this, which has the reader questioning who is right and wrong.
Despite this disdain, Ruby seemingly had little choice as a child, controlled by the manipulative and narcissistic, Ida.
She must navigate these hostile reactions, unlock difficult memories and deal with current emotions, all charging at full speed. In doing so, a realistic character is crafted, imperfect and complex. One we root for, hoping she gets the answers she seeks.
In order for Ruby to overcome her past she must fully embrace her present situation. She must solve the mystery and untangle her trauma if she hopes to enjoy true freedom in the future.
Overall, The Night Side is a thrilling read. It offers complex characters, well-illustrated environments and twists aplenty throughout its well-paced narrative.
The Night Side by M.M DeLuca is due to be published on 5 December 2023.
I personally have read The Night Side. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book and this post does contain affiliate links.