Shutter by Melissa Larsen is a psychological thriller around cameras. Betty just wants an acting break with her favorite director, but things aren’t as they seem.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

A young woman agrees to star in a filmmaker’s latest project, but soon realizes the movie is not what she expected in this chilling debut novel.

In the wake of her father’s death, Betty Roux doesn’t allow herself to mourn. Instead, she pushes away her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves everything behind to move to New York City.

She doesn’t know what she wants, except to run.

When she’s offered the chance to play the leading role in mysterious indie filmmaker Anthony Marino’s new project, she jumps at the opportunity. For a month Betty will live in a cabin on a private island off the coast of Maine, with a five-person cast and crew. Her mother warns against it, but Betty is too drawn to the charismatic Anthony to say no.

Anthony gives her a new identity–Lola–and Betty tells herself that this is exactly what she’s been looking for.

The chance to reinvent herself. That is, until they begin filming and she meets Sammy, the island’s caretaker, and Betty realizes just how little she knows about the movie and its director.

“Nothing in here is worth your life.”

Was this a thriller? Sure. Was this thriller I thought I was going to get? Definitely not. Larsen took the slow-burn thriller genre a bit too intensely, as, this one takes too long to burn. By 75%, the tension had been building for so long that I was reaching the point of no longer caring. The ending was fine, but all the action happening in the absolute final chapters felt like an afterthought. As if, perhaps, our author wasn’t sure how exactly the book needed to end. The motivation behind the actions in this book made me feel, “all of this, for THAT?”

“There was an absence I could never fill, and I could always see the exact moment I had disappointed her. I watch it happen, again, in real time, in this wretched, loud dog park in the middle of nowhere important.”

This story is told from Betty’s point-of-view as she tries to figure out who she is through Anthony’s work. This makes her easily manipulated, and Anthony openly takes advantage of this. Betty is not the most aware of things going on around her, and, this causes the reader to be equally unaware. No one in this book is particularly likable, and they all follow Anthony like lovesick puppies. While he is manipulative, he doesn’t give off all-powerful vibes to me. He’s just another privileged rich person who made it in artsy films, with a cult following that works for him. There is no life lesson learned here, and no character growth. That’s not unusual in a thriller, but I felt as though the author wanted me to feel bad for the characters. I genuinely never did.

“I think you have to be almost destroyed by the people who are supposed to love you the most in order to become your own person.”

The pacing of this book was quite fast, which shows promise for a thriller debut author. However, the characters were flat, and the story felt like it needed more polishing. I wanted to enjoy this more, but it just missed the mark for me. Also, the book uses the phrase “let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding” in full seriousness, and I laughed out loud.

“Do you know? What I did, I mean.”

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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