If anyone needs a course in anger management it’s Frankie Morgan, the main character in Canadian author Hannah Mary McKinnon’s latest standalone thriller. Frankie’s trigger temper has been causing her problems both personally and professionally, and anger is one of the main themes of The Revenge List. The novel may be set in Portland, Maine but anger, revenge and forgiveness are universal.
Her boss has convinced her to attend such sessions. To complicate matters, Frankie’s boss is her father and Geraldina, the counsellor facilitating the course, is a friend of his. When Geraldina suggests writing a forgiveness list identifying individuals the participants feel anger towards, Frankie creates a list in her notebook that unbeknown to her is about to result in a whole lot of hurt for the individuals mentioned.
However, Frankie has no intention of forgiving anyone. From her perspective, the people on her list deserve to be there, even if she doesn’t know much about them – like her elderly neighbour and even Geraldina. Other names are people who have hurt Frankie deeply such as her father, a school bully and a former boyfriend. The most surprising person identified is Frankie herself.
You will begin to get an understanding of Frankie’s anger management problem when she realises that she has misplaced the notebook containing her private forgiveness list. Frankie turns detective trying to locate individuals who may have taken it. Her main suspect is Evan, a good-looking guy from the course. Frankie and Evan ditched the end of the session to go out for coffee. The evening ended with a confrontation between the two of them and Frankie leaving in an Uber.
After Frankie misplaces her notebook, strange things begin to happen. Someone leaves flowers outside her apartment door. Her Uber driver and the ride fee fail to appear on her Uber app. Instead she is charged for a no-show. When Frankie tries to contact Geraldina to see if she left her notebook at the church, she learns that the woman fell down her front steps when the handrail came off unexpectedly, breaking her nose.
McKinnon does an excellent job in showing us situations when Frankie’s anger is out of control. When her rage takes over she damages things, or relationships. In one instance, her response is so extreme that the confrontation is filmed and posted on social media. Frankie ends up trending – but not in a good way.
The love between Frankie and her family is evident in spite of the occasional friction. They also have their own struggles. Her dad’s construction business is struggling and her brother Rico and his spouse are worried about their sick child and the cost of the medical fees. You will empathise with those close to Frankie and understand that ‘walking on eggshells’ feeling her loved ones experience around her. There are times when her anger is justified, however she seems unable to express it in a way that is not self-destructive.
When Frankie’s notebook eventually turns up at the café she went to with Evan, her initial response is relief. She contemplates deleting her Facebook account to see if that will slow down the social media frenzy about her flipping out. Then she notices a post about an accident involving another person on her list. She dismisses the second accident as a coincidence but when she later sees a news story about a house fire involving yet another person on her list, Frankie realises that her forgiveness list has morphed into a revenge list. Is she being stalked? Who is harming these people, and why?
At this point, the action takes off like a racing car. She decides to seek out others on her list to warn them and to figure out who has been going after them. As the novel is presented from Frankie’s perspective, it will feel like you are along for the ride.
Near the end of the book, McKinnon begins to tie up the multiple threads in the book into a nice tidy bow. Because so much is devoted to brilliantly demonstrating how out of control Frankie’s anger gets, it takes a leap of faith to accept that she is resolving her issues. That being said, it is an enjoyable read. The end of the book makes that leap of faith worthwhile.
For another protagonist who seems angry at the world see Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars