I don’t read many detective thrillers, despite it being such a popular genre, and unfortunately this book confirmed that they are still not for me. That being said, it was excellent. The twist were so sharp, the tension so oppressive, my heart could barely take it. Playing into the space of an unreliable narrator is very interesting, but I think it would have had more effect on me if I’d read more of the genre previously.
There’s been a murder in a sleepy town, which draws journalist Anna back home, where she reunites with detective Jack. Both have a history with the victim, with each other and with the town. Both are untrustworthy. Will the killer be caught in time to prevent more tragedy?
The first thing that struck me was just how incredible the writing was. There is a perfect balance of tension, exposition and internal monologue. I was particularly impressed with how Alice Feeney made the character’s inner thoughts fascinating at all times, conveying how different their own perception of themselves was from how others perceived them. As I’ve already mentioned, the tension was masterful, above and beyond what I’m used to. Thrillers need tension, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone use it as skillfully as Feeney. Furthermore, the exposition always felt relevant, never intrusive, continuously adding to the book.
The book has two different first person perspectives, from Anna and Jack. Both are complex characters, with complex needs, problems and secrets. The unreliability of their narration made them come alive most in my opinion. Because they would contract each other, it added another layer to their already deep characters. while I might not have been able to empathize with their specific circumstances, I definitely felt sympathetic towards them. The only problem I had was that I didn’t feel that there ‘voices’ were different enough in the first person perspective, which allows form an extreme intimacy with one character (or two in this case). I felt that that contrast could have been pulled out even more than it was.
However, there is a third, lesser, perspective from the killer. They only get a few pages sporadically throughout the book, but it allows for a truly chilling narration. They seem sociopathic at the very least, which constantly made me feel that one of the characters was hiding a deranged streak. I think it worked exceptionally well, while rarely ever providing any clues to the killer.
The supporting characters, who acted as other suspects, were also well thought-out. New information about them was drip-fed to the reader which constantly had you reevaluating them, yet they never seemed to break the mold of how I first imagined them. Again, the skill is unbelievable.
Yet where the skill shows most is the plot. After I’d already been baited into wrong conclusions twice in the first 50 or so pages, I knew I was being toyed with. Never have I felt so inadequate. I loved it and hated it at the same time. I got all my deductions (apart from one or two small ones) completely wrong. I definitely got the murder completely wrong. Yet it seemed so obvious once they were unmasked.
I was surprised by the nature of the themes. I thought they’d all be very shallow, but there was some significant thoughts about the human condition. It was quite cynical really, but still interesting. I feel like there was also things in there about family and loss, although they didn’t strike a chord with me due to my own life (or lack thereof) experience.
Overall, I’d give it 6.5 out of 7. It might not have been for me, but I can appreciate good writing. I would classify it as a detective thriller more than a murder mystery due to how the story unfolds and how possible it is to solve the murder, so if that’s your thing, I’d highly recommend. It has some very novel elements to make it stand out, as well as more traditional elements. Honestly, I think the writing was good enough that anyone will appreciate the book. Although prepare to be completely baffled and bewildered.