In “Rock Paper Scissors,” Alice Feeney transports readers to the eerie isolation of the Scottish Highlands, where Amelia Wright, her husband Adam, a renowned screenplay writer, and their aging Labrador, Bob, embark on a weekend retreat at the secluded Blackwater Chapel.
Winning the stay through an online contest, they navigate through a blizzard, only to arrive at a desolate and seemingly abandoned chapel.
The trip, intended by Amelia as a final effort to salvage their marriage amidst ongoing counseling, quickly spirals into a harrowing experience. Inside, they find a barren chapel with just a note leading them to food and wine, but an unsettling face at the window sends Amelia into a panic.
Feeney cleverly intersperses the narrative with annual love letters to Adam, ostensibly from Amelia, revealing deep secrets and reflecting on their tumultuous relationship. These letters, inspired by Adam’s unproduced screenplay “Rock Paper Scissors,” hint at layers of deception and unspoken truths between the couple.
As the weekend unfolds, Amelia and Adam face a series of chilling encounters: a mysterious power outage traps Amelia in a wine crypt, photographs hint at hidden stories, and a bell tower visit nearly ends in disaster.
Amid these tensions, the couple learns they are not alone; Robin, a reclusive figure with ties to the chapel’s past, watches them, manipulating their experience from the shadows.
The plot thickens with revelations of infidelity, betrayal, and a complex web of relationships involving Adam, Amelia, Robin, and a cast of characters connected through past tragedies and secrets. Feeney masterfully reveals that Robin, not Amelia, penned the love letters as part of a vengeful plot rooted in a tragic love triangle and a family legacy tied to the chapel.
In a climactic confrontation filled with twists, Adam and Amelia’s relationship unravels as they uncover the full extent of Robin’s plan, her identity as Henry Winter’s estranged daughter, and her sinister intentions for the chapel.
The story culminates in a shocking revelation of past crimes, leading to a violent standoff that reshapes their lives forever.
Six months later, Robin’s final letter reveals her new life with Adam, now writing under Henry’s name, while harboring a dark secret that could unravel everything. Feeney closes the novel with a haunting scene at Blackwater Chapel, now sealed off with a fresh, unmarked grave, leaving readers to ponder the true cost of secrets and revenge.
Amelia is depicted as a complex character, grappling with the strains of a failing marriage and the desperation to save it. Her decision to organize a retreat to the secluded Blackwater Chapel reflects her last-ditch effort to reconnect with her husband, Adam.
As the narrative unfolds, Amelia’s perspective reveals her vulnerabilities, fears, and the lengths she is willing to go to preserve her relationship. However, her character is also shrouded in mystery, especially regarding her past actions and true motivations.
Adam, a noted screenplay writer, emerges as a character torn between his professional ambitions and personal life.
Despite his skepticism about the retreat offering a solution to their marital issues, he demonstrates a willingness to try for Amelia’s sake.
Adam’s character is intricately linked to his work, particularly through the screenplay “Rock Paper Scissors,” which influences the story’s dynamics. His journey through the novel reveals a man confronting unexpected truths about his marriage, loyalty, and the shadows of his past.
Robin, the enigmatic recluse spying on Amelia and Adam, plays a pivotal role in the unfolding mystery.
As the narrative progresses, her background as Henry Winter’s estranged daughter and her intricate plot for revenge come to light. Robin’s character is driven by a blend of vengeance, longing, and a quest for identity and belonging. Her actions, deeply influenced by past betrayals and familial connections to the chapel, add layers of intrigue and complexity to the story.
Bob, the old Labrador retriever, represents more than just a pet to Amelia and Adam; he is a symbol of their shared life and the unconditional love often found in family dynamics.
His disappearance during the retreat adds an emotional layer to the story, highlighting the vulnerabilities and priorities of his human companions.
1. The Fragility of Relationships
The book delves deeply into the complexities and vulnerabilities inherent in marital relationships. Through the experiences of Amelia and Adam Wright, Alice Feeney explores how secrets, mistrust, and unspoken resentments can erode the foundation of a once-strong bond.
The annual love letters, initially believed to be a romantic gesture, unfold as a narrative device that reveals the depth of the couple’s estrangement and the pain of unmet expectations.
The isolation of the Scottish Highlands, mirroring the couple’s emotional distance, serves as a backdrop for their final confrontation with truths that have long been buried.
This theme is intricately woven into the narrative, showcasing how easily love can be undermined by the weight of secrets and the failure to communicate, ultimately testing the resilience of the bond between Amelia and Adam.
2. Identity and Deception
Feeney crafts a labyrinthine plot that examines the fluidity of identity and the destructive power of deception.
Characters are not who they appear to be, and the revelations about their true identities drive the narrative forward to its climactic twists. The character of Robin, in particular, embodies this theme, as her identity—and her past relationship with Adam and Amelia—unravels to reveal a web of deceit that spans years.
The manipulation of identity and the use of deception as a means to an end underscore the novel’s exploration of how individuals can be consumed by their pasts and driven to extreme measures to reclaim a lost identity or rectify perceived injustices.
This theme is a critical underpinning of the plot, raising questions about the nature of self, the impact of past actions on present identity, and the lengths to which people will go to protect or rediscover that identity.
3. Revenge and Redemption
Central to the narrative is the theme of revenge, as seen through Robin’s elaborate scheme to avenge the wrongs she believes have been done to her.
The book meticulously unravels the layers of Robin’s plan, revealing the deep-seated pain and betrayal that fuel her actions.
However, intertwined with the pursuit of revenge is the quest for redemption, both for Robin and for other characters whose lives are marked by regret and the desire for atonement.
Feeney challenges readers to consider the consequences of revenge—not just for the intended target but for the avenger themselves—and whether true redemption is possible in the wake of profound betrayal.
The complex interplay between revenge and redemption in the characters’ lives offers a poignant commentary on the human capacity for forgiveness and the possibility of healing, even in the most broken of relationships.
“Rock Paper Scissors” is a masterfully crafted thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.
Alice Feeney’s skillful manipulation of narrative perspective and her ability to weave complex relationships into a tightly plotted mystery are commendable. The novel’s atmospheric setting, combined with its intricate plot and deeply flawed characters, creates a compelling read that explores the darker aspects of human nature and relationships.