The Substitute

Warren Botts is a disillusioned Ph.D., taking a break from his lab to teach middle-school science. Gentle, soft-spoken, and lonely, he innocently befriends Amanda, one of his students. But one morning, Amanda is found dead in his backyard, and Warren, shocked, flees the scene.

As the small community slowly turns against him, an anonymous narrator, a person of extreme intelligence and emotional detachment, offers insight into events past and present. As the tension builds, we gain an intimate understanding of the power of secrets, illusions, and memories.

Nicole Lundrigan uses her prodigious talent to deliciously creepy effect, producing a finely crafted page-turner and a chilling look into the mind of a psychopath.

 I have to admit, this one took me a lot longer to get through than my normal reading speed. I’m usually through a book either in 1-2 days barring my life getting complicated but this one took 5. It’s not that it was a bad book but there’s a lot of exposition making the story slowly drawn out so I found myself losing focus at times and needing to take lots of breaks. I was determined to finish it though because the murder was done interestingly enough I had to know who did it and why.

 Another interesting aspect is that the chapters switch off between the 3rd person perspective of one main character, Mr. Botts, whose story is in the present and the first person point of view who we would later learn to be the murderer. You don’t find out who the murderer is until nearly the last page. The way those chapters are written it could be the first person point of view of the main character from the other chapters or someone he’s interacting with; there just isn’t a lot of help to figure it out until the end which is a good thing because it keeps your attention in needing to know.

 The entire book I kept going back and forth whether I liked it because at times it felt like there was a lot of rambling and it felt like the characters were talking just to hear themselves talk but they weren’t providing any information I cared about. Mr. Botts also gets lost in his head quite often and counts random things which takes you off on more slow tangents.

 I think the problem was I had expectations from the cover and description this was going to be a very fast paced crime thriller but it’s a lot subtler than that, more like a fine wine you let breathe before you can enjoy. When I realized it wasn’t going to be the stereotypical mystery book I started again and changed my expectations because I knew when I first started I had skimmed through quite a bit trying to get to the tension building action.

 Once I stopped looking for that quick, heroin like fix of junkie thrills we normally get from fast paced mystery thrillers I discovered a book rich in character development that was trying to examine a very powerful aspect of society. It was heartbreaking to understand why the murder victim was chosen even to the point I could emphasize with the murderer.

 I would recommend people read this and give it chance because it is a book with a lot to offer.

 Thank you to Netgalley and House of Anansi for allowing me to review this book.

 Buy at Amazon:

*synopsis and pic from

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