A tragic accident. A past you can’t escape. Wow, what a cracking good read, an addictive twist-filled page-turner. Summer readers, pay attention to this author! I loved her book I See You, also a suspense thriller, but I liked this one even more. The title has multiple meanings at various points in the novel. Loved the clever plotting, characters I really cared about, compassionately portrayed dark issues, an authentic police investigation, pertinent side stories about the detective’s home life, and the unpredictability for the most part, except for the classic “look out, you should have seen this coming and protected yourself better” moment, when the haunted inevitably becomes the hunted, but every true thriller needs one of those right?
With this book it’s best to go in with as little information as possible to enhance the thrill of discovery, so here’s the goodreads synopsis to set up the storyline just enough…
“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…”
An interesting BBC interview with the author, containing no spoilers:
‘Domestic suspense’ is not a new genre, it’s been around at least since WW 2 but lately there have been quite a few thrillers coming out in this category and the term has become more in vogue. I think ‘psychological thriller’ may also be correct but it wouldn’t necessarily be set in the home.
Domestic suspense takes an ordinary marriage or family relationship and begins to reveal that all may not be well. Hairline cracks appear that reveal a darkness and the reader becomes aware that there is evil at work. A sinister reality begins to emerge. The terror lies in the fact that this is no random crime in a dark distant alley, this wicked situation finds itself right under your own roof and there is no escape!
I judge these types of books on three things, 1) good writing and character development, 2) the ability to build suspense, and 3) the inclusion of enticing twists and turns. It is usually skillful small reveals that best drive suspense, but a few gasp inducing surprises are just delicious in this type of work.
The publishers’ hype of this novel (advertising blurbs, cover language) all lead one to believe that this is a domestic suspense novel along the lines of ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, but I don’t think it is. The story did not build suspense and there were not enough compelling twists. The psychological element was very well explored, so I would call it more of a psychological study. The dog’s name is Freud, so I guess that should have been my first clue. The story line is about a relationship that suffers for a number of reasons and at the outset you already know that she will kill him, you’re just waiting to find out when and how. I did enjoy reading it, mostly because I felt fascinated by the behaviour of the main character Jodi when her “marriage” to philanderer Todd dissolves and things begin to fall apart. Her silence is the most chilling thing in the book. It contributes to her undoing, but also oddly to her pardon.
There are three other domestic suspense books I have posted on in recent years. Here are the links:
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
The first time I started this book I couldn’t get into it. But when it became an assignment for my reading group, I tried again and I am so glad that I did. It is an intense, absorbing, and captivating novel. I read it compulsively, stealing time from other projects so that I could get back to it. It is chilling and haunting, not so much in any graphic way considering the subject, but in horrific everyday sorts of realizations along the way. There are insights into all sorts of aspects of family life and parenting that Shriver weaves into this gripping story. Because it is a series of letters, it reads more like non-fiction than fiction, and gives the reader an incredible view into the thoughts of the narrator. It is not a cheap thriller, it is a great work of literature. The characters and themes are well drawn and the writing is expertly crafted. It will be on my mind for a long time and though I have not yet seen the movie, I don’t see how it could come close to offering all of the insights that the author develops in this book.
Kevin is responsible for a Columbine type school massacre. We know this at the beginning of the book so the letters his mother sends to his father, are all in hindsight. This type of incident (and there have been so many) inevitably raises the question of how something like this could happen. Was there a serious flaw in the person, in the parents, in society? When we look back into that person’s life in light of what happened, which this book does, were there any signs and clues that were missed? Was this the result of a cold and judgemental mother or an indulgent father? Was it because the boy was rich, or bullied, or marginalized? There is the inclination to find fault or place blame, because the thought that an ordinary child from a middle class family could get up one morning and commit a multiple murder in cold blood, is just too chilling to absorb.
The ending (in the final paragraph, not the major reveal towards the end) makes a profound statement and is most shocking of all, but I can’t tell you why I thought so because it would involve spoilers. So when you’re finished reading, we do really need to talk about Kevin.
Thrillers intrigue me but there’s only a handful of books that have truly made me scared, ‘Jurassic Park’ being the most memorable. While reading that one, I saw sneaky velociraptors just waiting for me around every corner, even though the movie was just silly. It was probably Michael Crichton’s ability to create a horrific yet plausible scenario. And I remember once finishing a book in our en suite bathroom after my husband had gone to bed, because I couldn’t stand being alone in the living room. It was some murder mystery – wish I could remember the title.
Somewhat in the style of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, ‘Gone Girl’ is a psychological thriller with an ingenious plot. It is a smart and sassy suspense novel, not exceptionally well written, but well worth the read if you are not bothered by some crude language and adult content. There are some very surprising twists and turns and after I reached the middle of the book, I couldn’t put it down. Hollywood is on to it too. Reese Witherspoon has been identified for the role of Amy in the movie scheduled for 2015. Who will be the handsome Nick?
One morning a wife suddenly disappears from her home. The police suspect the husband but something feels wrong with this easy assumption. The book is narrated by both the husband and the wife so the reader can enjoy a comparison of their points of view. It becomes obvious that the five year marriage was disintegrating and Amy was afraid of her husband. She kept secrets from him and what about the persistent calls on his mobile phone? What did really happen to Nick’s beautiful wife Amy?
Imagine that every morning when you wake up, your brain has erased all of the memories that were there. You don’t know who you are or where you are. The house you live in is unfamiliar and there is a stranger in your bed.
Like the movie ’50 First Dates’ Christine and her husband Ben start each day this way, basically starting over, due to Christine’s amnesia. A terrifying thought, but it gets even worse.
This thriller drew me in and though a bit repetitive in the middle, it is actually well crafted and clever and propelled me forward to the end. Who to trust, what to believe, what is true? So much depends on our memory – our relationships, our ability to love, and our sense of self.
‘Before I Go to Sleep’ is a runaway bestseller here in Britain and I would venture to guess that it will be a movie as well. I will not say more. The less you know, the better it is.