On a recent train trip to Chicago, with the expected Amtrak delays, I had plenty of time to read, and in fact finished this whole novel on the ride. It was an absolute inhale – I couldn’t put it down, and half way through my trip started rationing the pages so I wouldn’t finish too quickly. To me a great book recommendation is: when you are reading this book, you are looking at the dwindling number of pages left and saying “oh, no.”
This novel fits in nicely with some recent, creepy thrillers like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, Elizabeth Haynes’ Into the Darkest Corner, and the great S.J. Bolton’s Dead Scared. So, you are forewarned.
McKenzie is a well known British YA writer, with several books to her credit, and one skill that carries over nicely to an adult mystery from a YA novel is the necessity for storytelling drive. While this is a very fine novel, it’s not a meandering thinkpiece – it’s a terrific story, with lots of great twists and cliffhangers. It’s almost Victorian.
The central premise, as is the case for many good novels, is a simple one. Main character Gen (or Geniver) Loxley is devastated by the stillbirth of her baby, now eight years ago. She and her husband, Art, a very successful financier, are trying and trying to get pregnant again with no success. It’s made Gen forget about her formerly blossoming writing career and made her a somewhat difficult and distant partner to her husband, Art, who seems more than understanding.
When you’re stuck in life, you need a kick start. This wouldn’t be an interesting novel without one, and Gen gets hers in the form of a strange woman turning up at her door one morning, telling her her baby isn’t dead. She’s (for it was a little girl named Beth) alive. Gen has a dual reaction: she thinks it can’t be true, and she thinks it can. Art is happy to point out to her all the reasons it couldn’t be. When Gen meets an old friend of Art’s at his birthday party, he encourages her to check it out for her own peace of mind. No-one else in Gen’s life is giving her that kind of advice – in fact, all of them, from her best friend to her husband to her perfect sister in law, Morgan – are all more or less telling her she’s crazy.
With the desperation of the obsessed, she latches on to Art’s friend, Lorcan, and does begin to investigate, and she starts to discover clues that suggest maybe she isn’t crazy. You’re with her on the ride. Your dawning belief in Gen grows as the novel progresses, but to tell too much more of this twisty plot would be to give too much away. Let’s just say once you start reading you won’t be able to stop. This is a terrific first adult effort from a writer who hopefully will be telling eager readers many more stories in the years to come.