This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read. Twisting, dark, well-crafted. Although it’s categorised as crime fiction, I would say it crosses the genre into psychological thriller.
The story switches between the third person narratives of two characters, Louisa and Paul. They have both done terrible things, secrets they’re hiding, and are working at a garden heritage site for rehabilitating young offenders and addicts. Louisa is in her thirties and still obsesses over a relationship she had in 1989 with a singer in a struggling band, while Paul is nineteen and is trying to escape the criminal friend who controlled him.
There were many elements of the novel I enjoyed. The characters were interesting and realistically presented, as were the details of the settings (in London, Warwickshire, Essex and Sussex). The twists were surprising, right until the last page. Tension and foreboding brooded in every chapter. I liked the down to earth dialogue too. The only thing I didn’t like was the very occasional bit of gory violence but there wasn’t enough of it to put me off.
I had previously read Erin Kelly’s debut novel, which I remember liking but I don’t think it was a thriller as such. The Sick Rose is very good indeed and I’ll be checking out more of her work.
First published in 2011. Its alternative title is The Dark Rose.