Weekly Reads: “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”

How segmented life is. It splits so easily into friendships and addresses and life phases that feel endless but never, never last. Wearing suits.” 

― Gillian McAllister, “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

“Wrong Place Wrong Time,” by Gillian McAllister, is a mystery thriller told in reverse. The book starts with a murder, and the rest of it slowly unravels as a mother goes backwards through time until the motive of the murder is discovered. McAllister’s book spans multiple genres, crossing mystery, thriller, fiction, science fiction and suspense. 

The book follows the perspective of Jen, the mother of the murderer. As she wakes up every morning further and further in the past, she not only uncovers more and more about why her son would murder someone, but also makes revelations about her own life that she failed to acknowledge while they were happening. The book dives into family dynamics and especially the mother-son relationship, as Jen explores how her identity as a mother and woman changed over the years, and tries to figure out where her son turned into somebody willing to commit murder.

“They, mother and son, are a zipper, slowly separating as the years rush by.” 

― Gillian McAllister, “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

The book is also an excellent example of the butterfly effect. Over and over again, the book proves how small actions can have great consequences. Little details from the past can have big implications for the future — implications that are often missed as people get caught up in their day-to-day lives. Gillian McAllister explores the fluidity of time by providing a context in which we see somebody living their life in reverse, living the same days over again, something that never happens in our lives. 

The fun part of a mystery told in reverse is that you’re given almost zero context, and so there is no opportunity to prematurely reach the conclusion before the author wants you to. In fact, multiple times throughout the story, just as you are convinced that, finally, you know what’s going on, time jumps again and you are back to square one. The author does an excellent job of maintaining suspense throughout the book. If you find yourself to be a person who easily figures out the plot of a book or movie, this one might have you a little more stumped. All of the twists and turns are brilliantly written and make it a hard book to put down.