by Dreda Say Mitchell
Kindle Edition, 312 pg.
Bloodhound Books, 2019
Read: January 25 – 26, 2019
I’m going to leave the recap to the Spotlight post, and do something I don’t usually do here. I hope it works.
So I spent a lot of this book not wanting to push on — sure, the prologue was compelling and you knew from the start that Lisa is being lied to by her landlords, and given the genre (psychological thriller) and the fact that we’re talking easy-to-spot lies within the first few pages, you just know that the lies are covering up something dastardly. I’m curious about what’s going on — what Jack and/or Martha are up to that’s going go be a threat to Lisa; what happened to Lisa before she rented the room (because it’s clear from early-on that something did), what’s going to happen to her because of/in the room; and if there’s actually anyone healthy, sane or well-adjusted in this London — curious, but not sure I care all that much.
See, there’s a moment early on where things get a bit dark and threatening — and Lisa is very aware how tenuous her situation is, but she gets out of it unscathed. Which is a relief — until shortly afterward, when Lisa is given the opportunity to leave the house for good. No financial hit, no legal ramifications, no harm/no foul, no muss/no fuss — and turns it down with an explanation that seems pretty flimsy.
Lisa had her chance to leave, to get out, to escape unscathed and she is determined to stick around for more? Okay, fine. That sounds like natural selection at work. Let it be.
But I’ve agreed to take part in the book tour, and I am curious about the man in the prologue — also I want to know what happened to Lisa before she met Jack and Martha (after she met Jack and Martha was obviously going to be ugly and maybe tragic, that seemed a fait accompli). So I kept going. And just what is up with Lisa’s parents? They make Robert and Cora Crawley look effusive in affection and touchy-feely with their progeny.
And little by little, I get more curious. And more curious. And started to care a bit, I definitely got invested in the outcome (more invested in the explanation behind everything). When Mitchell (via Lisa) started doling out answers that curiosity increased. And then I did something I haven’t done for months. I go to bed and I’m a little awake still, so I decide to read for a few minutes, which is followed by a few more, and a few more — and then an hour has passed, and my Kindle is telling me I have about 10 minutes left. So I have to keep going at that point. That early-morning reading ended up being about forty-eight percent of the book. I just couldn’t put it down.
I went from wondering what was up with her parents to wondering “just what is wrong with them?” My distrust of homeowners Jack and Martha grew and grew. That applied to just about everyone in the book, actually. I realized at a certain point that I really couldn’t trust Lisa, either — but she eventually got to the point where you could. There’s a slightly off-kilter neighbor-lady who seems honest enough, but she clearly has a chip on her shoulder and doesn’t seem to want to help anyone. Not to mention the [spoiler redacted] who is connected to both Lisa and the neighbor, in a strange coincidence — you’re as skeptical about them as Lisa is, but pretty soon you get to think that [spoiler redacted] just might be the only one Lisa can really count on.
And with each ensuing revelation you have to reevaluate what you think about every character in the novel. And you start to understand that the events that led to the compelling prologue are even more compelling and with the exception of a couple of “It seemed like the best idea at the time” decisions (which, boy howdy, were horrible choices), everything that happened in the years following the prologue suddenly makes more and more sense.
The pacing on this — once things get rolling — is fantastic. The motivations pushing people to moved make sense and seem authentic (no one does anything that seems out of character just to advance the plot), and Mitchell ends up putting the reader just where she wants you. On the whole, the narration, plotting and writing seem effortless (a true sign that the author put a lot of effort into it). The characterizations are rich — some people are just who you think they are, and others are quite the opposite — and you will be surprised at who is authentic.
Mitchell knocked this one out of the park and totally won me over despite a lot of initial reluctance to go along with her. This is really impressive and I can see myself rushing to get whatever she does next. Give this one a try, folks, you’ll be glad you did – if you’re as impatient as I was, hold on, Mitchell will reward you.
My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.