Author: Helen Callaghan
Published: October 2016, Harper Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Fans of Jennifer McMahon, Mary Kubica, and early Gillian Flynn will love this chilling, tightly-spun debut novel of psychological suspense about an abduction that stirs memories of a twenty-year-old cold case.
As a thirty-something Classics and English literature teacher, working at a school in Cambridge, Margot Lewis leads a quiet life. In her spare time, she writes an advice column for the local newspaper. But she can’t help feeling that she’s the last person who should be doling out advice, because her marriage has failed.
When one of Margot’s students, fifteen-year-old Katie Browne, disappears, the police immediately suspect she’s been kidnapped. Then, not long after Katie goes missing, Margot receives a disturbing letter at the newspaper offices. The letter is supposedly from Bethan Avery, a fifteen-year-old girl who was abducted from the local area twenty years ago…and never found. In the letter, Bethan states that she is being held captive and is in terrible danger. The letter ends with a desperate plea for her rescue.
The police analyze the letter and find it matches a sample of Bethan’s handwriting which they’ve kept on file since her disappearance. This shocking development in an infamous cold case catches the attention of Martin Forrester, a criminologist who has been researching Bethan Avery’s puzzling disappearance all those years ago. Spurred on by her concern for both Katie and the mysterious Bethan, Margot sets out—with Martin’s help—to discover if the two cases are connected. But then Margot herself becomes a target...will she be next?
Riveting to the final page, this is a masterful, sophisticated, and electrifying debut.
My thoughts: As many of you know, I have quite a thing for psychological thrillers lately, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to read this one when it was presented at the Harper Blogger Presentation last Spring. I couldn't wait to start reading it and boy oh boy, did this keep me on my toes!
This is a smart, cleverly written, multi-layered thriller that will have you scratching your head as you try to figure out just what is going on. So many times, I had to go back and reread sections because I was confused - but in a good way! I kept thinking I was missing something as I was reading, and I do admit, it does jump around a bit - and that does take a while to get used to - but once I got used to that, I found myself totally engaged and hooked. I needed to find out what was going on and how this was all going to end...and golly gee, was I sure off the mark with my guesses!
The emotions that the main character, Margot feels are incredibly palpable - I felt as if I was experiencing all that she was in real time with her...it's not often that that happens when reading a thriller. And yet, at the same time, I often questioned whether Margot was a reliable narrator - yes, it's one of those is she/isn't she, but trust me, you don't want that to deter you from picking up this book.
This book definitely didn't head in the direction I first thought it would and I'm glad...that's what I love about this genre! And I love that I keep finding new authors to read within this genre as well. Helen Callaghan has given us a smart, twisted debut novel and I look forward to seeing what comes next from her!