Just as I decide it's time to steer away from the psychological thrillers with unreliable female narrators, one comes along that I just can't resist. Luckily this time my impulse-reading was well-placed, as this is a really good read. It was sent for me to review by the kind folks over at Orion Books.
To an outsider, Jessica seems to have everything a young woman could want. She has a kind and attentive husband, a comfortable lifestyle, a good job that allows her the time and creative freedom to pursue her career as a jewellery designer. But Jessica feels her life is missing one key ingredient; a close female friend to confide in. So when confident, enigmatic Libby arrives on the scene she is delighted when they 'click' straight away. Her husband seems significantly less pleased, but why? Could it be that he and Libby are keeping something from her?
As Jessica tries to avoid having to face up to the cracks that are appearing in her relationship, she turns to the past and gets lost in memories of her youth, growing up on a coastal caravan site. She reminisces about her first teenage love, Thomas, who was tragically lost to the sea as a young man. The last time she saw Thomas before he died, he had blood on his hands and was on the run. Something has never seemed quite right about his disappearance. So what better way for Jessica to distract herself from her current troubles than to try and solve the mystery of what really happened back then?
Sounds complicated, right? I thought so when I first read the blurb, but actually the dual narrative is really well done and never feels contrived or confusing. I was impressed by the way Clannachan seamlessly flits between past and present despite the fact that the two plot strands aren't closely linked. The plot is fairly complex, but reading it never felt like hard work and I got really engrossed in Jessica's story.
For me, the story of teenage Jessica provided more interest than her marital difficulties. I think I've grumbled elsewhere on this blog about how rubbish many adult authors seem to be at writing realistic teenage characters. Well this novelist has nailed it, providing keen observations of a strained family dynamic from a child's point of view. Jessica is naive and insecure and longs for comfort from her parents, but at the same time puts on a show of adolescent bravado and indifference to the rest of the world. It's interesting to see her looking back at events through an adult's eyes with a fresh appreciation of key details that she didn't think were significant at the time.
It's a book I would recommend to anybody looking for intrigue and mystery, but particularly to fans of Erin Kelly's novels - it reminded me a little of The Sick Rose. This is Lezanne Clannachan's debut novel, and it has made me very interested to see what she'll come up with next.
If this review hasn't convinced you, you can watch this video of ladies in the Orion Books reading group sharing their thoughts - all positive!