Ive read a couple of Hilary Bonners books in the past and have thoroughly enjoyed them. She is a typical cosy crime writer and usually focuses on police procedurals. This book is slightly different. Billed as a thriller, it is much more along the lines of a Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine or Nicci French novel. It is exactly the type of book that I theoretically enjoy; unfortunately, it did not seem to flow as well as her other books. In fact, in parts, it was positively clumsy.
Suzanne and Carl live in St Ives and have done ever since Carl rescued Suzanne as she is now known from an abusive marriage, of which she still has nightmares. Slowly beginning to relax and make friends, Suzanne is beginning to feel that at last she can put her violent past away. Then suddenly, the horror of her past returns when she is targeted by a series of anonymous letters. Determined to protect Suzanne, Carl starts to act oddly and accuses a villager of having prepared the letters.
Eventually, Suzanne is determined to face her past and admit to a crime that she was responsible for. However, Carl has other ideas, a fact that Suzanne discovers when it is rather too late. Is Carl the man that she thought him to be? And once she has found out the truth, will it be the beginning of a new life for her?
Theoretically, Suzannes suffering at the hands of her first husband should have made me feel deeply sorry for her. Having been brought up in a very sheltered way by her grandmother, educated at home and rarely mixing with the rest of the world, she is unable to recognise danger for what it is. To a certain extent, this is entirely natural, but somehow I didnt find it so and I just found Suzanne rather silly and annoying. As the story unfolds, my feelings of disbelief continued to grow and my lack of ability to believe in Suzanne did make the story less compelling than it might otherwise have been.
It is clear from the beginning that there is something not quite right with Carl. He is just too good to be true and his desire to protect Suzanne from the nasty outside world is a little obsessive. Hilary Bonner is a little cleverer in her portrayal of Carl though although it is clear that he is not all that Suzanne believes, nor is he the character that the reader would initially guess him to be and it is this aura of mystery that holds the story together as far as I am concerned.
Suzannes librarian friend, Mariette, is an important feature of the story. As unlike a librarian as can be, she injects a source of fun into Suzannes life and begins to show her that life is not as scary as Suzanne has been led to believe. She is Suzannes rock and source of support in her times of trouble. Thank goodness for her character; otherwise I would have begun to believe that the story was taking place in a parallel world.
I think the main problem with this book is that in this day and age, it is hard to believe that anyone could be as innocent as Suzanne. It is partially explained by her over-protected childhood, but she did have access to television and was supposedly intelligent, so her inability to put two and two together just doesnt quite gel.
This book is passable, but that is about the most that I can say for it. I finished it; but then reading even the most boring book to while away the time on public transport is better than no book at all, so that is not saying much. It definitely did have its moments. The story initially seems to be boringly straightforward, but there are twists that strike at unexpected moments, which does keep the book ticking along. Compared to Nicci French though, it doesnt really register and I would recommend that if a psychological thriller is what you are looking for that this is should not be at the top of your list.
At the same time, I would be reluctant to turn anyone who likes crime fiction away from this author. She has written some excellent books, usually of the police procedural type, that I can thoroughly recommend; The Dead Cry Out in particular.
Should you still be tempted to try it, the book is available from Amazon from just 40p. Published by William Heineman, it has 400 pages. ISBN: 0434008028