Published: 18th April 2019
Started reading: May 17
Finished reading: May 23
Trigger warning: Drug references
It’s the day her father will be released from jail. Izzy English has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories. But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.
Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial. But should she give him the benefit of the doubt? Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?
This is a book with a very simple but tantalising concept. With the help of some brilliantly drawn characters and thoughtful, compelling writing, it effortlessly held my complete attention from start to finish, ensuring that it more than delivered on its potential.
The plot is extremely well executed, and by now I expect nothing less from Gillian McAllister. All of her books have been terrific reads, all domestic or legal thrillers that explore important issues, pose truly fascinating moral questions, and contain well-developed, believable characters. Of the four novels she has released so far, this is one of her best.
I was immediately taken in by the concept. Izzy’s father Gabriel has just been released from prison, where he served 18 years after being convicted of the murder of her mother. Izzy always assumed that he was guilty, but once they meet he tries to convince her that he is innocent despite all the evidence pointing towards him.
From there, it primarily focuses on one question. Did Izzy’s father kill her mother, or was he the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice? Izzy begins her own investigation into the circumstances that led to Alexandra’s death, and despite her reservations she continues to meet with Gabriel and they share their own personal accounts of what happened.
As further details of the case emerge, the story becomes much more complex. I regarded Gabriel with a lot of suspicion, but there are moments where there are reasons to suspect the motives of several of the other characters and whether they also have something to hide. I was impressed by how it all unravelled; the writing rarely giving much away as each piece of the jigsaw fell subtly into place.
When it comes to addressing the themes of the book, the writing is even stronger and carries a lot of meaning. It perfectly captures the sense of emptiness that Izzy feels at no longer having a family, and her initial indifference about her father’s guilt. When exploring Gabriel’s difficulty to adjust after spending so long in prison, McAllister absolutely nails it.
I thought Izzy was a very good protagonist, who was quite likeable and easy to empathise with. She is written in the third person, which is a departure from Gillian McAllister’s previous books. During the chapters where she and her father discuss the case, Gabriel’s account is written in the second person, which I found highly effective.
Let’s talk about the ending! I found the final revelation understated yet powerful, and the events that follow are bittersweet, but fit well with the story. I really admired it, and again the writing is spot on.
There are only a couple of minor issues I had with the book. At times the pace is slow and it does occasionally go off on an unnecessary tangent. Elsewhere, Izzy’s uncertainty about her father does become slightly repetitive.
Overall, this is an excellent, profoundly written thriller. The pace may be relatively slow, but it is rich with suspense and intrigue. I was happily consumed throughout as it lived up to my high expectations.
Hugely thought-provoking and very effectively written, this was a fantastic read. Gillian McAllister was already one of my favourite authors, and she has written another great book.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5