With over twenty-five novels under her belt already, Victoria Helen Stone is famous for churning out suspenseful genre fiction. However, False Step is one that lives up to its name, missing the mark with a lackluster cautionary tale about people who consistently made bad choices. Even by the lower-standards of “summer reading”, it never helps when your suspense-thriller is seriously lacking in both suspense and thrills.
The story revolves around the strained relationship between Veronica and Johnny, two down-on-their-luck high school sweethearts who seem to have lost their spark for one another. Only their luck begins to change when one day, while out hiking, Johnny comes across Tanner Holcomb, a 3-year-old boy who went missing several days ago. Immediately, Johnny is celebrated for his heroism and sees his personal training business gains multiple new clients just as quickly.
There’s one person who isn’t too happy about the exposure – his wife Veronica. She shies away from the spotlight, not wanting any attention on their family, especially their ten-year old daughter Sydney. But why would she be so hesitant to laud her husband for his heroic act? We soon find out she’s afraid the exposure will shine a light into parts of her life she wants hidden, especially the affair she’s been having with Micah, her husband’s best friend.
As events transpire Veronica discovers her husband Johnny is also exhibiting some questionable behavior, hanging around unseemly old workout buddies again who he once dealt drugs with. She also discovers he’s gotten himself a burner phone, never a good sign. All the elements of a proper suspense thriller are present and accounted for, only they fall flat long before the climax.
Part of the issue were the characters in the story. It was hard for me to support Veronica or anyone else because they were all two-dimensional and follow certain stereotypes that were annoying. Veronica is selfish, whiny, and extremely needy, especially in her affair with Micah. She desperately craves his attention, throwing ultimatums at him but rushing to apologize as she worries he might end their relationship.
She’s the quintessential example of someone who wants to be rescued from their lives – but will never be content when the “rescue” comes. She consistently makes bad choice after bad choice, never learning her lesson. Opposite her is Johnny, a douchey and dumb, gullible gym rat who also makes bad choices – but ends up paying for them.
False Step is a mindless read for lazy summer days, somewhat suspenseful but predictable in its outcome. It doesn’t hold the promise of any mind-blowing twists similar to other suspenseful thrillers, but it will occupy you for a few hours. As events unfold, it becomes obvious who was responsible for the disappearance of the young boy, though these revelations never add up to a great story. In the end, these two-dimensional characters never properly deal with the consequences of the decisions they’ve made for themselves. It’s difficult to become all that invested in a thriller that lacks the one thing it needs: the thrills.