Heather Carnassale’s debut Behind the Mask is a great leap into the ever popular thriller genre. Written through the experiences of a young adult woman, still trying to find her place in the world and traumatized by the aftermath of a hostage taking situation at her bank in Philadelphia, the book reads like a mystery where everyone but the protagonist is in on the secret.
Remi and Liam are a pairing thrust into an awkward coupling by the former’s new employment as a bank teller and the latter’s double life as part of a thieving ring. The story starts out with the bank robbery, its purpose revolving around a high end divorce and five diamonds in a safe. When the crime goes bad, Remi is taken hostage by Liam into a bank vault for several hours; his only disguise is a mask. Hardened by life, Liam finds himself drawn to the subtly feisty girl with the big blue eyes still dependent on her parents and trying to make a go at adulting for the first time.
The book weaves through the streets of Philadelphia after Liam feels compelled to both ensure Remi’s safety from his band of thieves who are hunting for the missing diamonds and ultimately keep tending to the bond they formed while in the vault. Remi is not aware that this mysterious stranger who seems to keep bumping into her is the same masked man.
Heather’s style is quick and to the point, like readers should expect thrillers to be. Her characters are well rounded and the connection between them comes through in her writing. While Liam is dark, and at times too emotionally removed from the rest of the characters, he is written as one who sits on the sidelines overseeing the results of his handiwork and influencing its outcome in small bursts. He is flawed but you still root for him. Remi is every young woman out there living life as a treading water exercise rather than something to claim. The story allows for a continuation and my understanding is that this is the first of a series.
Great first novel by this up and coming independent author!