Rock Paper Scissors - Alice Feeney
Released: 19th August 2021
Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 58% ⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Psychological thriller (but reads more like women’s fiction)
Premise: Adam, a screenwriter, and his wife, Amelia, whose marriage is breaking down, leave London for a remote renovated chapel in the Scottish Highlands after winning the break in a prize draw, but where strange and spooky things begin to happen to them.
The good: Crisp prose and a strong ending with a couple of unexpected twists.
The bad: Letters written from Adam’s wife every year during their ten-year marriage read like information dumps rather than genuine letters
The ugly: Adam conveniently suffers from ‘face blindness’, an affliction that is central to making an otherwise ridiculous plot work
In summary: A ponderous, slow read which seems to want to make a statement about the state of modern marriages rather than delivering a heart-stopping thrill you expect from a psychological thriller.
Rock Paper Scissors is Alice Feeney’s follow-up thriller to His and Hers which came out last year and which has won widespread acclaim.
The number of positive reviews I kept reading was the reason I picked up the book, despite finding His and Hers a little lacklustre.
Unfortunately, what I suspect many people loved about the book, I hated.
I found it slow, ponderous and lacking any real tension or suspense until around the 80% mark.
It read more like women’s fiction than a serious psychological thriller that should have your heart pounding from page one.
Far too much time was taken up by Feeney opining about marriage – something I’m sure many readers will love – but it was a big, boring turn off for me and I had me skip reading big sections of the middle act.
The story is about a couple who after ten years of marriage getaway to a remote renovated chapel in Scotland after winning a prize draw.
A few ‘spooky’ things happen while they are there and there’s a weird old lady who lives in the cottage up the road. But that’s about it. Nothing much else happens.
Amelia gets accidentally shut in the basement. There’s a power cut. And Amelia and Adam’s dog goes missing.
That’s about it – until the truths and lies start to emerge much later in the book.
Yes, there are twists but nothing so devilish you couldn’t see them coming as the cast of characters is so limited there are only so many possibilities with such a bare stage.
But my biggest bugbear with this book was the convenient medical affliction that drives the plot. Adam is ‘face blind’, that is he suffers from prosopagnosia which means he can’t recognise people.
I’m sure it’s a debilitating condition for anyone who suffers from it but it felt like Feeney had only afflicted Adam with it for the sole purpose of her plot. Without it, the whole story falls down.
And where was the tension and suspense?
I expect life and death stakes from the outset in a psychological thriller. Yes, there is death and there are dead bodies in this book – but only towards the end.
And that’s another big problem for me. There was no hook at the beginning of the story. No inciting crime. No external threat to the main characters, beyond their marriage being on the line.
The inciting incident of this story is that two people falling out of love head off to a remote Scottish hideaway. I spent the first third of the book waiting for the big drama that never came, the shock moment when Adam and Amelia are rocked out of their ordinary lives.
It’s for all these reasons I’ve given Rock Paper Scissors a 58% Psychological Thriller Fans rating. Disappointing.
Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. An anniversary they’ll never forget.
Adam and Amelia are spending the weekend in the Scottish Highlands. The remote location is perfect for what they have planned.
But when their romantic trip takes a dark turn, they both start to wonder – can they trust the one they’re with?
Because every couple tells little white lies. Only for Adam and Amelia, the truth is far more dangerous.
AMAZON US (paperback)
AMAZON CA (paperback)
AMAZON AUS (paperback)
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AJ Wills is the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.