I'm watching you... I know everywhere you go...
These are the words glaring up at Beth Stephens when she opens a mysterious note which has been delivered to her and understandably, it leaves her feeling terrified.
Somebody appears to be watching Beth and knows her every move, which would be alarming to anyone, but to Beth it suddenly seems that everything she has done to build her life over recent years is about to come crashing down around her.
Since an incident which occured when Beth was just 18 years old and spending some time with her sister's godmother in San Francisco, Beth has carefully built her life on a lie and tried to keep herself to herself as much as possible, always wary of forging any friendships or relationships and very protective of her privacy.
Working as a teacher, Beth thinks she can live her life in London without her past catching up with her as long as she remians careful. She doesn't see much of her family and uses marking homework as an excuse, or feigns a migraine to get out of socialising altogether or uses it as a reason to leave early. I initially found her character quite irritating as she doesn't seem to realise how her often abrupt manner affects her family or those who try to get close to her.
Despite all this, Beth finds herself becoming close to her neighbour Danny and also strikes up a friendship with an American comedienne called Zoey. Beth is finally beginning to think she is safe from the secrets of her past and begins to relax and enjoy life a little more and I found myself warming to her character as she embraces these new relationships and starts to enjoy life more than she has done in recent years.
And then she receives a note...
Suddenly Beth can trust nobody again and sees danger everywhere. She feels that everything is beginning to unravel and the secret she has kept hidden for over a decade, is about to be exposed. Someone is closing in on her and they want revenge.
Can't Let Go begins with a Prologue written as a confessional and right away the reader learns exactly what the terrible secret is that Beth has kept to herself since she was 18 years old. What you don't know however, is what exactly happened or why and this is what I initially found intirguing.
The story spends much of its time following Beth and her day to day life as the author slowly builds up her character. I quickly realised that Beth is spending her life 'on the run' so to speak and looking over her shoulder. She is very cautious about keeping a low profile and really is foresaking herself any real happiness as she is too frightened to let her guard slip. Despite this, Beth seems to have come to terms with her lifestyle and is plodding along, having accepted that this is the way she must live her life in order to protect herself from the secrets of her past.
Now really perhaps I should have been bored when reading this book in places, as it really does just follow Beth from day to day, but I wasn't. Although at first nothing really happens, she does experience some strange moments when a face from her past will appear on the head of a stranger at any given moment. These moments are enough to keep Beth on her toes and although she knows it is her mind playing tricks on her, it serves as a reminder that Beth isn't really doing as well as she thinks. It is these moments and a sense of 'all isn't how it seems' combined with slow building suspense and then the appearance of the notes, that held my interest and kept me turning the pages.
The chapters are interspersed with flashbacks to Beth when she was 18 and events leading up to the day that has had such an impact on the years which have followed. These flashbacks slowly allow the reader to understand what happened and why and are well written just to give you a little clue here and there, until the secret is revealed.
Then of course it is on to the main mystery of the story. Who is sending the notes to Beth and what will become of her? I found I was beginning to have some suspicions and about halfway through the book I found it difficult to put down and read the second half in one sitting.
What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that I thought I had worked out who was responsible for writing the notes to Beth. I must admit I initially felt a little disappointed as I really believed it was all going to end just as I predicted, but no, there was then a twist which I had not seen coming, which in turn dispelled my theory altogether and I was kept in suspense until the final pages.
Can't Let Go is a surprisingly riveting read from Jane Hill. I say surprising, as although I was intrigued from the start I did not expect to find that I couldn't put the book down. It does have a slow pace which plods along and there is maybe a little too much background or description in one or two places, but this is just a minor niggle and overall it didn't actually detract from the story or spoil my enjoyment. The characteristion is good and the other characters featured apart from Beth have just enough development for the needs of the story. At 373 pages, I found it was I would consider to be about the right length.
I have not read anything by Jane Hill prior to reading this but it has certainly got me interested and I will seek out more of her work. She has the ability to tell a great story and fans of psychological suspense I think will enjoy this book as much as I did.