Book Title: Mister Tender’s Girl
Author: Carter Wilson
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: 02/13/18
At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.
Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…
“For better or for worse, Alice, you can never separate yourself from your children. They are an extension of you. I haven’t spoken to my girls in over ten years, but they are still a part of me.”
“Like a tree,” I say. “Branches on a tree.”
“No,” he answers. “Like a cancer.”
This was one messed up book, and I mean that in the best way possible. While it won’t be the preferred taste of every reader, those who enjoy tales of dark deceit and disturbing disasters will likely take to Mister Tender’s Girl. I kept spying raving reviews of this book on Goodreads, so like the good girl I am I immediately went and requested it from NetGalley. #FOMO I can 100% see where all the hype is coming from, and I love that the inspiration for this unique tale is somewhat grounded in the reality of the Slender Man stabbing. If you enjoy mysteries but are a bit squeamish, you’ll want to take a hard pass on this one, but if you enjoy the heavier, more graphic side of the genre, you’re in the right place.
We find out right off the bat that our girl Alice was the subject of a gruesome attempted murder by teenage twins aiming to please Mister Tender, a fictional bartender in the graphic novels that Alice’s father penned. It was rumored that if you could please Mister Tender, he would grant you the greatest desire of your heart, and the twins wanted everlasting fame. Well, I guess they got it one way or another. Hence the “Mister Tender told me to” story. Fast forward 14 years and Alice is still trying to escape her past. She’s moved with her mother and brother to America and the twins have recently been released from prison. Someone is gearing up to mess with Alice again, and this time it’s escalating quickly. Who is Mister Tender and what does he want with Alice?
Let’s start with all the things I loved about this book. I was in the mood for something highly entertaining, something I could get lost in yet not have to think about too deeply. This was the perfect novel to do so in, because it is gripping, exciting, and perfectly equal parts breath-taking action and suspenseful character development. While there are many mysteries, great and small here, I didn’t feel the pressure of having to solve them myself. I was able to just sit back and watch it all unfold. I was fully invested in the reveals, but was able to wait and be shocked along the way, instead of rushing about trying to figure it out before the author decided to let us in on all the secrets. I hope that makes sense.
The characters, the plot development, everything was perfect for me up until about the 85% mark. I was all set to give this the biggest, fattest, five stars you’ve ever seen, but then the ending happened. Let me clarify-I loved the who and why of the reveal. All the pieces that tied this portion together were perfection. What I didn’t enjoy was the how. The final “big showdown” wasn’t grand at all; in fact, it was anti-climactic at best. I can’t give any detail for fear of spoilers, but I sat there shaking my head going “REALLY? That’s the best way this story could end?” for a full hour before I could move on to reading something else. Perhaps I just was expecting something a bit less cheesy, but it felt as if the author got to this point and lost steam. Otherwise, this book was amazing and I still recommend it purely for the enjoyment factor.
I’m new to Wilson’s books, but I’ve seen his previous The Comfort Of Black floating around Goodreads with copious praise, so I’m more than intrigued to read another story from him. This was overall a well-written, engaging, and at times terrifying read; the type I’m always wishing to find more of. Carter Wilson is clearly an author who knows how to entertain his audience by including meaningful family drama with his crime fiction, and I hope to continue seeing his books plastered across social media in the near future. Highly recommended for those looking for a little less mainstream read; one that isn’t a cookie cutter reading experience but will take you on a wild ride, if you allow it to. Go ahead, tell Mister Tender your deepest, darkest secrets. He’s listening. 🙂
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley.