Published: 23rd April 2015
Started reading: January 30
Finished reading: February 5
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.
This was a book that sadly did not live up to my expectations. On the surface, it has many of the features I would associate with a good thriller, each of which brought the occasional hint of promise. However, aside from the concept and some isolated moments of tension, multiple aspects are lacking in effectiveness, resulting in a frustrating and disappointing read.
I shall start with the positives. The concept was indeed interesting and fairly original. It explores the theme of female friendships relatively well, and creates tension with the help of a menacing setting, and a potentially unreliable narrator. I also liked the fast pace of the book; almost throughout the writing was concise.
The problem was, it was never gripping.
The story alternates between the present day, and the events of five years earlier. Of the two, the latter is more strongly developed and full of sinister characters, accounting for most of the darker and more unsettling areas of the plot. By comparison, the present day storyline felt half-baked and ever so slightly contrived.
I found it frustrating that there were moments within the present day that actually revealed possible plot twists for later on in the book. They felt like spoilers, and removed any sense of intrigue for at least part of what was going to happen at the end. Even then, there were still some important questions left unanswered.
One of my biggest issues with the story as a whole was that I struggled to seriously warm to any of the characters. Jane/Emma is an average protagonist, but at times she is terribly grating and lacking intuition. This is the kind of book where you kind of need to connect with some of the characters in order to like it, and that just did not happen for me here.
The ending was disappointing, too. As well as the unanswered questions, it all felt very rushed, with little or no explanation for what had happened during the five-year period between the two storylines. Like a lot of the book, it just lacked substance.
Overall, I would say that this a book that promised a lot but did not deliver. There are moments that I liked, such as the pace, and the detail and description of the Ekanta Yatra setting, but to me the plot just felt all over the place, culminating in a dissatisfying conclusion. This one simply was not for me, I’m afraid.
There are some strong trigger warnings in this book, particularly in the Ekanta Yatra storyline. These include rape, sexual references, drug use, and references to animal cruelty.
It does get a bit unsettling at times, so if any of these things could cause a negative reaction, then it probably would be a good idea to skip it.
This was my first disappointing read of 2019. I can see why others might like it, but neither the plot nor the characters were able to make me connect with the book.
My rating: ⭐⭐