Reviews for Rock Paper Scissors

by Alice Feeney

Publishers Weekly
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Londoners Amelia and Adam Wright, the couple at the center of this craftily plotted if flawed domestic thriller from bestseller Feeney (His & Hers), are spending the weekend at spooky Blackwater Chapel in the Scottish Highlands on what is meant to be a last-ditch effort to save their 10-year marriage. Each harbors darker agendas for the weekend, as does the mysterious, hermit-like neighbor, Robin, who frightens Amelia when Amelia catches the woman peering at her through a chapel window. The plot takes some perilous turns in ways both predictable—a power outage, dangerously loose stones in the wall of the chapel’s belfry—and not, as alternating narrations from the trio open a Pandora’s box packed with secrets, lies, and betrayals. Feeney’s signature misdirection sets up gasp-worthy twists down the stretch even if they, like the characters, come off as arbitrary and artificial. In contrast to His & Hers, some may walk away from this one feeling more snookered than satisfied. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (Sept.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An unhappy British couple attempt to rekindle the magic with a weekend trip to a remote spot in Scotland. How is she tricking me? Feeney, the author of Sometimes I Lie (2017) and His and Hers (2020), has trained her readers to start asking this question immediately with her puzzle-box narratives. Well, you won't find out here. Only the basics: Amelia's won a weekend getaway in an office raffle, and as the novel opens, she and her screenwriter husband, Adam, who suffers from face blindness, along with their dog, Bob, are miserably making their way through a snowstorm to a destination in the Scottish Highlands which is no Airbnb Superhost, that's for sure. A freezing cold, barely converted church with many locked rooms and malfunctioning electricity, the property also features a mysterious caretaker who has left firewood and a nice note but seems to be spying through the window. Both Adam and Amelia seem to be considering this weekend the occasion for ending the marriage by any means necessary—then Bob disappears. The narrative goes back and forth with first-person chapters by Amelia and Adam interleaved with a series of letters written to Adam on their anniversary through the years and keyed to the traditional gifts: paper, cotton, wood, leather, etc. There's also a rock and a scissors, referring to the children's game of the book title, which the couple use to make everyday decisions like "Should we stay together?" Offstage is the famous writer Henry Winter, whose novels Adam has made his fortune adapting; through several author-characters, Feeney weaves in sometimes-grim observations about the literary life. On meeting a sourpuss cashier at the rural grocery store: "The woman wore her bitterness like a badge; the kind of person who writes one-star book reviews." This complicated gothic thriller of dueling spouses and homicidal writers is cleverly plotted and neatly tied up. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.