In the Substitute, Chrissie Tate is a wife to Michael and a mother to their three-year-old, Holly. She is also a drama queen. Chrissie’s marriage is happy. But she can’t stop grieving for her dead mother. Even though years have passed. She frantically worries about protecting her young daughter—from falls, and from her neighbors. So, when a stranger comes to her door with a strange proposal, she eventually invites him in.

“Tell me, Mrs. Tate have you ever experienced grief? What if I could ensure that you never had to experience that again, Mrs. Tate? Would that be something that might interest you?“

The stranger, named Joseph, claims he works for the government. Chrissie quickly names three people who she wants to save from death. She chooses Holly, Michael, and her best friend, Wendy. Then, Joseph reveals the catch.

“If you want to prevent the death of your loved ones, then you need to select the people you want to die instead.“

In a parallel plot set in 1980, Michael has found a virus that can reanimate recently dead mice. The time the mice live again is short—only days in 1980. But how would the virus act forty years later when Chrissie was visited by Joseph?

It is an interesting idea to mix a Michael Crichton-type medical thriller with a domestic suspense plot. Science going horribly wrong hasn’t really been popular for decades. And, that part of the book is my favorite part.

I’m bored with the “family with secrets” thriller style that has been so popular the past few years. Chrissie’s full-blown panic, PTSD, and epic worrying are not supported with either rational underpinnings or a mental health issue. She’s just annoying.

That said, the Substitute does have an intriguing plot. It makes you wonder what you would do if Joseph stopped by your house one evening. 4 stars!

Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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