The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
No One Knows by J. T. Ellison is part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part cautionary tale. It is one of those stories that show fairy tales do not always come true. The themes of trust, betrayal, and treachery are explored through the lives of the main character.
Ellison noted, “People might compare it to Gone Girl, but I wrote it before that book ever came out, back in 2011. It was based on a dream I had when my husband and I went to a wedding at the Opryland Hotel in Tennessee. After sending me a drink he disappeared. I was looking for him and as I rushed into the parking lot I saw the author Harlan Coben, who wanted to give me career advice. Unfortunately I never got it because I woke up. I did not have it published then because Catherine Coulter popped up in 2012. She wanted me to start writing with her so I shelved this book. Of course Gone Girl came out a few months later. But now after numerous revisions I have published my first stand alone.”
As the story unfolds readers will wonder which character they can truly trust and believe. The main character, Aubrey Trenton Hamilton, thinks she has met her savior, a knight in shining armor who will love her unconditionally. She and Josh live in marital bliss until his disappearance. Ellison breaks the storyline down into time periods based on Aubrey’s relationship with Josh, having spent the first seven years of her life not knowing him, the next 17 years of her life side by side with Josh as childhood sweethearts, and 5 years mourning his unexpected disappearance and possible death. In those five years she has known nothing but emptiness, solitude, and loneliness. With alternating past and present chapters, readers get a feeling of knowing the characters inside and out.
Aubrey is an unreliable narrator, a complex character who is put into an extraordinary circumstance. She has had a harsh life, losing both her biological and adoptive parents. This frail person just wants to be loved. This becomes evident with not only Josh but someone she meets, Chase Boden. He has an uncanny resemblance to Josh, from his mannerisms to the way he walks, Readers go on the same journey as Aubrey wondering if she will ever be able to forge a life beyond Josh.
The reason Ellison has the setting at the Opryland Hotel is for its monstrous landscape. She explained, “It is so easy to get lost in. I thought it a great setting to start off the book. It is a metaphor for this story because anyone who visits there can get turned around and see different things at different times.”
Even after her husband, Josh, is declared legally dead Aubrey has a hard time moving on. She is still obsessed with finding the answers behind his disappearance. People will understand how someone can almost lose their sanity wanting answers. It is a reminder how missing persons can sometimes be worse than knowing someone is dead, considering there is no closure.
Although the plot is not based on this, Ellison tells of her own experience with a missing person. “I had a friend who went missing and never has been found. In 1992 in South Carolina after a U2 Concert she just disappeared, and was never heard from again. I know she didn’t run away to create a new world for herself. It is horrifying to me to think what her family has to go through even to this day.”
No One Knows will have inevitable comparisons to Gone Girl, but this is a more realistic storyline. It will have readers guessing who can be believed and what are their ulterior motives. Ellison messes with the character’s head as well as the readers with her many twists and turns.