It is the final day of this blog tour and I am delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the debut novel by my book blogging friend NS Ford. Ever since I found out that this book was being published I have been looking forward to reading it, and this tour was the perfect opportunity!
Many thanks to Dave @ The Write Reads for facilitating this blog tour and allowing me to take part, along with Noly for her usual fantastic banner, and NS Ford herself for sending me a free copy of the book.
Published: 1st October 2021
Genre: Psychological Thriller
A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire.
They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.
This is a gripping novel with a plot that generates considerable suspense and unexpected, sometimes unfathomable twists. With a clever use of multimedia and impressive representation, it covers a whole range of topics along the way and certainly succeeds in creating a mystery full of intrigue, which endures right up until an ending that is curious to say the least.
It has all the atmosphere and foreboding you would expect to find in a psychological thriller, but it provides an alternative take on some other aspects, almost offering a smart critique of the genre in the process. As is the case for much of the story, this is well written and is complimented by strong, detailed character development.
In the fictional town of Becksley, a young woman called Tina Jameson has gone missing and Lauren believes that she and her friends Jess and Claire are to blame, having held something over Tina for years leading up to her disappearance. Lauren announces that she will play detective and look for clues as to Tina’s whereabouts, but soon becomes disconcerted by a succession of unsettling incidents.
Bad things happen to Jess and Claire, while Lauren sees her flat broken into and has noticed that a tall middle-aged man happens to show up everywhere she goes. At the same time she becomes friends with Tina’s sister Phoebe and offers support, but the secrets keep on coming and there is clearly somebody out there watching every move, ready to take their revenge.
The plot is reasonably fast paced from start to finish and as a reader you can never rest easily as the next intense moment is never far away. Tina’s disappearance lies at the very centre of things, but there are a lot of events happening around it that make the story very unpredictable, especially due to the fact they involve a number of characters whose true motives are kept under wraps.
Lauren is the primary narrator, and is a really interesting and multi-layered character. She has autism and also suffers from anxiety; characteristics which feature heavily in the story and are well conveyed. Some elements of her personality were actually quite relatable, and the way she was written gave a powerful insight into her thoughts and emphasised the many challenges she faced.
In between each chapter, there were sections told using other forms of media, which brought so much more to the book and were enjoyable to read. The most interesting of those were Tina’s blog posts, published in the four years until she went missing and growing increasingly depressing in tone, sprinkled with deep philosophical questions. Attention to detail is needed here, including in the comment feeds.
Elsewhere, we have short monologues told from the point of view of the man following Lauren, and somebody else whose identity does not become clear until later on. There are also ‘letters’, written by Claire to her dead parents, which consist of life updates and vast outpourings of emotion, significantly enhancing her character development.
The other characters were a mixed bag. For all her cheerfulness, Jess was vain and unlikable, while Nathan was very aloof at first before a rather sudden change. Michelle was odd, especially towards the end, and Garrett even more so. My only issue was that there was perhaps an unnecessarily high amount of characters involved in what happens to Lauren and her friends; like a case of too many cooks.
Through Lauren’s eyes, Becksley is made to seem unwelcoming and fairly claustrophobic, and it felt easy to understand why she wanted to move away. The writing is indeed very good throughout, full of detail and glimpses of personality, even if there is a regular tendency to list descriptive words. However, it is in the narratives where it truly succeeds.
And as for the ending, well that is up for debate. It comes completely out of the blue and will most definitely divide opinion. Sadly, it was not for me as it just seemed much too bizarre, so that detracted something from the rest of the story and arguably lessened the impact of some of its themes. Still, it is creative and opens the door for a potential sequel.
Overall, this is an addictive and fast-paced thriller that makes things hard to predict and showcases an extremely good use of narrative techniques. There is effective character development and inventive methods of storytelling, just a shame that the ending was not what I had in mind. Still, a very commendable debut.
Although the book is not massively dark in tone, it does cover a lot of sensitive topics to be aware of. It focuses largely on a missing person storyline and there are depictions of anxiety, while Tina’s blog posts discuss depression and suicidal thoughts.
The book also contains alcoholism, ableism, sexual references, and drug references.
In the main, a really good book. The ending took a little off my rating, but most of the time I really enjoyed it.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
*I received a free electronic copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Be sure to check out the other posts on the blog tour!
Happy reading 🙂