What a page-turner this book is! Fast-paced, concisely written, twisty and with untrustworthy characters. Exactly what I want in a thriller. I thought this one was more sophisticated than the other Laura Marshall book I’ve read, Friend Request.
In 1994, the sleepy town of Hartstead was traumatised by a local man shooting 11 people and then himself. The 25th anniversary of this tragic event brings secrets to light, as our protagonist Cassie (who was only 4 at the time her father was a victim) has returned to the town and is befriended by a journalist who wants to find out the truth. The novel is an exploration of how such events affect people and places for years afterwards and also a vindication of mothers who think they are not good enough. Cassie is a character you can empathise with, as she’s a single mother with a young baby she is struggling to connect with, plus she has a mother with early onset dementia, but there is no one to look after Cassie… except for some new friends who are possibly not to be trusted. Cassie is supposed to be around 30, yet she’s sometimes given expressions which only an older person would use. Everyone also seems to say ‘Jesus’ as an exclamation and “can I have a word?” – I know these are small details but maybe the dialogue could have been more varied for different characters.
I felt that there was a lack of decent male characters in the novel. They are all abusers, mean drunks, sinister weirdos or commitment-phobes, except for one character you’re supposed to like but who didn’t seem real to me.
The ending, while it suited the themes of the story, was somewhat of an anti-climax, I thought. The novel turned out to be more of an emotional drama and less of a crime thriller than I’d anticipated. I wasn’t disappointed, just a little surprised. It’s definitely worth reading though and is the perfect length.
Thank you to the publisher Little, Brown for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on August 5th.