One night can change everything. For better. For worse. Forever.
The characters in two new novels from Karen Ellis and Andrea Bartz experience the immediate and long-term ramifications of ill-spent nights to drastic effect. In Ellis’ novel, Last Night, the distinctly different lives of Titus “Crisp” Crespo and Glynnie Dreyfus intersect in unexpected and unfortunate ways when they attempt to purchase weed from a shady supplier. Meanwhile, Lindsay Bach struggles to piece together the fleeting memories of a tragic night ten years earlier in which a college friend, Edie, committed suicide in Bartz’s The Lost Night. Both novels offer mystery, suspense and unforgettable characters caught up in situations that swiftly spiral beyond their control.
In Last Night, Crisp is an intelligent 19-year-old high school valedictorian with plans to enter Princeton on a scholarship in the fall. The novel opens as Crisp makes deliveries on his bike through the streets of New York on the eve of his graduation, only to see him unjustly arrested for arguing with a police officer who tickets him for riding his bike on the sidewalk in an obvious case of racial profiling. While spending time in a detention facility, he spies a neighbor, affluent white girl Glynnie, sunbathing on a nearby rooftop. Ashamed and unable to face his mother and grandparents once released, Crisp and Glynnie strike up an unlikely friendship that ultimately leads them in search of weed from a dealer in the Brooklyn projects. Crisp inwardly knows he’s making a mistake, but he is reluctant to abandon Glynnie. Plus, the trip to the projects offers Crisp a chance to find his father, whom he has never had the chance to know. Needless to say, Ellis heaps further misfortune on the pair as their drug buy goes horribly awry.
While the pair of friends struggles to regain control of their lives, their absence at home does not go unnoticed, leading to a pair of investigations by local detectives to find them. The detectives’ inquiries ultimately cross paths as they pool their skills to bring the teens home safely, and Ellis swiftly ratchets up the tension and the stakes in this gripping thriller.
The Lost Night, on the other hand, imbues its reader with a more subtle mystery that unravels piecemeal over time. As the tenth anniversary of her friend Edie’s suicide nears, Lindsay fails to recall precisely how she spent that fateful night. Plagued by alcoholism and faulty memories, Lindsay obsessively questions her friends and Edie’s relatives, only to discover inconsistencies, suspicion and revelations she never suspected. Her persistent desire to learn the truth tests her own conclusions, her friendships and the nature of the event itself. Could Edie have been murdered? Could one of her friends been involved? Or worse, was Lindsay herself part of the deed or involved in a cover up?
Bartz, who is a Brooklyn-based journalist, crafts an intense, emotionally gripping novel pitting memory and reality against each other. Readers, in turn, are left to wonder along with Lindsay whether she is being wholly truthful about the events of that night—recalling other recent unreliable narrators like Amy Dunne in Gone Girl or Rachel in The Girl on the Train—or whether Lindsay was deliberately misled.
Both Last Night and The Lost Night are set in Brooklyn, and their respective authors contrast their characters’ social and cultural differences to full effect. Both books will keep you awake long into the night.