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Amnesia trope gets a fresh look in 'The Stranger in the Mirror'

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"The Stranger in the Mirror" by Liv Constantine; Harper (336 pages, $26.99)

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The well-worn trope of a person suffering amnesia receives a fresh update in “The Stranger in the Mirror,” thanks to appealing characters and Liv Constantine’s energetic storytelling. Constantine, the pseudonym for sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine, has delivered consistently enthralling novels that have deservedly landed on best sellers lists. While “The Stranger in the Mirror” occasionally dips into cliches, Constantine imbues this fifth novel with a brisk plot, solid twists and many surprises as the author blends the psychological thriller with a terrifying domestic drama.

Two years ago, Addison Hope was found walking down a New Jersey highway, injured, disoriented, with no idea who she was, nor any clues to her identity. Now Addison — her name came from a tombstone — has a growing career as a photographer in Philadelphia and is engaged to wealthy Gabriel Oliver, whom she has known for six months. Gabriel’s family has embraced her, though his mother, Blythe, worries about her past, which rears up when psychiatrist Julian Hunter pays a chance visit to the Oliver Art Gallery. Julian insists that Addison is his wife, Cassandra, who disappeared two years ago, leaving him and their 7-year-old daughter, Valentina, inconsolable.

Addison — now known as Cassandra — returns to Boston with Julian to try to piece together her past. While she is a bit wary of Julian at first as she tries to “rediscover” her feelings, her bond with Valentina is instantaneous.

Constantine’s plotting skills realistic characters keep “The Stranger in the Mirror” entertaining. Addison’s determination at finding out who she is — despite the cost — puts the reader on her side. She worries that her frequent nightmares full of violent imagery mean that she may have committed a crime.

The Philadelphia surroundings and a visit to Palm Beach add to the plot. Although amnesia has been a go-to gimmick for many daytime dramas, Constantine gives it a new look in “The Stranger in the Mirror.”

 

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