New Year’s Eve invokes a certain image for most of us: hope for the future, optimistic resolutions (even the ones we know we won’t keep), champagne toasts to health and happiness. It’s all very inspiring and heartwarming—unless of course one never makes it to the big countdown, let alone kisses somebody special at the strike of midnight. Many thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC copy of It Ends at Midnight, a twist on new beginnings by Harriet Tyce.
Interestingly enough for a day that encourages us to look forward, it’s the history between some of the characters that proves to be the most influential factor on the first of the year in this novel. Rooted in complex relationships, the plot is rife with old wounds and heartache, as well as some fresh perspective on it all that’s offered through the eyes of characters just arriving on the scene alongside readers. To this end, I think Tyce acquits herself well; from Tess and Marcus’s strained marriage (made even more so by her recent diagnosis and her friend Sylvie’s constant presence) to the interactions between the rest of the guests at the fancy affair leading up to its gruesome conclusion, it’s almost reminiscent of Love Actually. Every storyline is its own conversation, even those on the periphery, but they tie in together one way or another in the end. Best of all, each character is realistically flawed, lending an authentic foundation to the plot that continues to its conclusion.
What could have been a rom-com or dramedy takes a hard left, jerking us all out of the semi-happy, semi-nostalgic atmosphere of New Year’s Eve and vow renewals to the thrilling mind games for which Tyce became known with her debut domestic mystery novel, Blood Orange. In It Ends at Midnight, one guest’s resolution to right a few wrongs spirals into something far more complicated than even they planned for. The way this is all eventually spelled out—in twists and turns that would make even some of the more calculating readers out there go cross-eyed—supports Tyce’s reputation as a darkly entertaining writer who knows how to lead her audience on a not-so-merry chase to the riddle’s most basic answer, the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle hidden within the plot.
That being said, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that all of the machinations seemed to come to a head a little too jerkily toward the end of the story. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate a good twist ending that leaves me discombobulated and determined to reread the book just so I can identify where I must have missed a glaringly obvious clue along the way. Granted, I haven’t done that in this case (yet), but something tells me that I might have to look harder than usual for that illusive evidence that the ending wasn’t a work-in-progress until one of the last manuscript drafts.
For lovers of Clue (the game or the movie—take your pick), legal and psychological thrillers, and of giving feel-good holidays like New Year’s Eve a cheeky middle finger, It Ends at Midnight is an enthralling page-turner that will keep you all wondering what could possibly come next.