Published: 27th December 2018
Started reading: April 18
Finished reading: April 21
Trigger warnings: Domestic violence, child death, sexual references
Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.
Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.
So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?
This was one of my highly anticipated reads for 2019, and it did not disappoint. An engaging writing style, a fascinating concept, and an unpredictable, thought-provoking plot made it difficult to put down. It was an absorbing thriller from beginning to end, full of slowly simmering tension.
The book contains a lot of the things that you would expect to find in a modern domestic thriller, and there were definitely some aspects that reminded me of other books I have read in the genre. However, this one has more than enough originality to stand out, most notably in the way it explores interesting topics and makes the reader question what they would do in certain situations.
The plot itself is very intriguing, and I like how it all begins with a rumour that slowly gathers momentum before accelerating into something altogether more intense and accusatory as the story progresses. One of the characters would turn out to be notorious child-killer Sally McGowan, and it definitely kept me guessing on who it might be.
It is all revealed in a twist I did not really see coming. I have to praise the author for including one or two very convincing red herrings, and when the unexpected twist does arrive it is very effective as it helps to set up an enthralling, suspenseful ending.
The only thing I will say against the twist is that it could have been supported with a little more backstory, with a few more things explained in greater detail. I appreciated how the author respected the reader throughout by not spelling everything out and letting me work things out for myself, but there were some areas where I felt I needed to know more.
As for the characters, well it is told in the first person from the perspective of Joanna, who first hears about the rumour and then unwittingly makes things worse by passing it on. She certainly has her flaws (including an inability to think before she speaks), but I found her a likeable and well-meaning narrator who I felt I could partly relate to.
Meanwhile, I found her partner Michael to be a very believable, well written character. He was not always likeable, but that did not matter. The only issue I had was that it seemed the focus on Joanna and Michael’s relationship was a distraction from the central plot.
The small seaside town of Flinstead acts as the perfect setting, as it allows the titular rumour to spread quickly and become almost an obsession among its residents. There are moments in the book where most of the supporting characters – who were all very well developed – come under suspicion.
Right from the start of the book I was taken by the writing style. It is so engaging and it helped to carry me through the story. The pace is quite steady throughout, and I liked how the author made Joanna so accessible, to make it feel like she was communicating with me as the reader.
Overall, I found a lot to like in this book. It presents a compelling concept and a plot that takes a number of interesting and surprising directions. I would have liked a little more detail in places, but generally, this was a story that held my attention and it rarely wavered until I reached the end.
This is Lesley Kara’s debut novel, and I would certainly be interested in what she writes next. She is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, and lives on the North Essex coast.
I was very impressed with this book. The writing style and the plot consumed me, and it was a fine thriller.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐