Tyler Karras is newly married and planning to buy a house to start a family with his wife when he learns that his brother Nick, who recently fell asleep at the wheel, killing their parents and sister, has become involved with San Francisco’s Russian mafia. Ty urges Nick to quit running errands for the Russians—that is until his pregnant wife becomes the victim of a heartless crime. Clouded by alcohol and anger, Ty asks the Russians for a simple exchange: he’ll give them the woman responsible for his wife’s death if they promise to free his brother from his debts. However, Ty makes a devastating mistake: he kidnaps the wrong woman. Recently separated from her wealthy, cheating husband, Hannah, instead of feeling like a helpless victim, purloins her strength and independence and promises to help Ty.
The Mistaken is a success in two distinct ways. First of all, it is a page-turning thriller with fascinating plot twists that grip the reader. But secondly—and more importantly—it is an intriguing look into what drives people to act in violent ways. Ty is a seemingly stable and kind man at the start of the story, but the unjust death of his wife and unborn child and the alcohol-fueled rage that burns in him drive him to seek a sickening revenge. Sex-trafficking is a horrific fate, even for the heartless woman who caused his wife’s death, but Nancy Thompson paints a picture of Ty’s backstory and motivation to make the reader understand his logic and to wish for his redemption in the end.
The story is told in first person, mostly through Ty’s perspective, but the reader often hears Hannah’s side of the story and even gets a glimpse of Ty’s wife’s point of view before her death, which accentuates their relationship and fuels the reader’s desire to see Ty’s enlightenment. In Hannah’s point of view, we see a strong woman firm in her self-awareness, which removes altogether the propensity for a damsel-in-distress type character, even though she is an innocent victim. Her strength makes her likeable and inspiring.
If the novel has one weakness, it is that in the beginning of the novel the characters’ tragedies seem almost too numerous to be realistic, but the reader is quickly swept up in the plot, and the characters are well drawn enough to feel real in their own right. Though Hannah and the criminal woman being doppelgangers may seem to be a bit of a plot device, it is necessary to the story.
This book bends the formula for the crime thriller genre—in only the good ways. Nancy Thompson has a firm grasp on human motivation, what drives good people to turn to the dark side—and what can bring them back. The Mistaken is an adrenaline-pulsing read.