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A Flash of Red Paperback – December 10, 2016
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"When you read a book that reaches into your head and forces you to ask some big questions, it doesn't leave you right away. It stays with you, just like those nagging questions that shake your core beliefs. . . Sarah Stephens' A Flash of Red, carefully crafted with language that sucks you in and a story that settles into all of your secret places, was that book for me." -Midwest Book Review
"People are seldom precisely how they appear to be from the outside. Sarah Stephens' debut novel shows us one such example in stark and disturbing detail. . . this book is remarkably well-written. Sarah Stephens' considerable skill with language is on full display, and her characters are of a complexity that eludes many authors. Oh, and pay attention to the very end. There might be something to be found there, if you're looking." -Michael McLellan, author of After and Again,American Flowers, and In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree
"A real representation of how mental illness changes the perspective of reality. Add a twisted marriage and a stalker, and you have yourself one heck of a story. 5 stars!" -Hogwash Reviews
"A Flash of Red is the definition of a psychological thriller. . . At some points, I felt like Bard, I was obsessed with what was going to happen next with Anna and Sean. It felt wrong to read their story, their secrets are so intimate,but that's the exact reason that drove Bard. I love the constant theme of sanity, Anna trying to figure if she is sane or others knowing Bard isn't sane. I want everyone who loves a good thriller to read A Flash of Red. Overall A Flash of Red is five stars!" -The Book Adventures of Emily
About the Author
Sarah K. Stephens earned her doctorate in Developmental Psychology and teaches a variety of human development courses as a lecturer at Penn State University. Her courses examine a variety of topics, including the processes of risk and resilience in childhood, the influence of online media on social and behavioral development, and evidence-based interventions for individuals on the autism spectrum. Although Fall and Spring find her in the classroom, she remains a writer year-round. Her short stories have appeared in Five on the Fifth, The Voices Project, The Indianola Review, (parenthetical), eFiction, and the Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast. A Flash of Red is her debut novel.
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and even more so how it often works against one's self and others. This book is rich in detailed psychological underpinnings of the character's thoughts and interactions. The author, who is an expert educator in the field, focuses on idiosyncratic behavior, inherited traits and the level of paranoia we all have that maybe our mental processes are flawed. The three main characters form a strange kind of obsessive triangle, one that is not directly based on sexual attraction. A married couple is experiencing a divide artificially introduced into their relationship by the male's obsession with internet pornography. The female, who like the author is an educator, has that one kind of over eager student who grows more and more interested in her personal life, more as a self-made friend, and her marital problems as the story unfolds. The result is a bizarre, suspenseful series of events fraught with potential risk and growing danger. It underlines one of the greatest concerns we all have with those to whom we is commit to an intimate relationship and what happens when betrayal of trust intrudes.
Sean, Anna’s husband, has a secret, too. He views Anna as someone he can mold into whomever he desires. But even though she’s compliant, his true preference is for online sex rather than intimacy with his wife.
Anna’s student, Bard, harbors a secret as well. He has a family history of schizophrenia. He fantasizes that he and Anna have a connection. When he discovers Sean’s predilection, he imagines it’s his duty to rescue Anna, something he failed to do for his own sister. And when he acts on his impulse, tragic results follow.
“Things are not as they appear” is my favorite theme in psychological suspense stories, and author Sarah K. Stephens delivers. The characters are multilayered and well developed. The story moves along at a steady pace, hurtling toward its surprise conclusion. This was a book I could not put down until I’d reached the final page.
It will appeal to fans of Paula Hawkins’ THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and A.S.A. Harrison’s THE SILENT WIFE. If you love psychological suspense, this one is for you.
Centered around the deteriorating marriage of college psychology professor Anna Kline, and her architect husband, Sean, A Flash of Red sits neatly between a dark character study and a psychological thriller.
What begins as a seemingly picture-perfect marriage, slowly evolves into something else. Something more complex, and full of emotional booby-traps. As Anna’s self-assuredness erodes, she becomes more controlling and manipulative. Sean retreats into a secretive world where he addictively chases his fantasies.
Anna discovers a disconcerting, but alluring kinship with her mysterious and intense student. As it turns out, she and Bard share similar pasts. Pasts they both fear may dictate their futures. One soon develops a fixation on the other…
That’s as far as I’ll go. I’ll leave the spoilers to the real critics. I will say that this book is remarkably well-written, Sarah Stephens’ considerable skill with language is on full display, and her characters are of a complexity that eludes many authors.
Oh, and pay attention to the very end. There might be something to be found there, if you’re looking.
I was really looking forward to an explosive climax courtesy of this guy. It did not happen.
Up until the ending, this was a four star read. One star knocked off for a banal ending that wasn't believable. One star knocked off not because of the writing [which was very good] but because I think that ending should have been reworked to fit the rest of this very interesting book.