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Chloe and her boyfriend Carl died 10 years ago and the Council is putting up a memorial to her. Laura follows the local news and goes to work in the shopping centre as a cleaner and remembers what really happened. Chloe's other friend Emma contacts her. They have been checking up on each other regularly, to find out what the other one knows.
Laura (also known as Lola), Chloe and Emma were 14. Chloe was the confident one. Laura and Emma were not really friends with each other but were rivals to impress Chloe and be her best friend.
This is a very well written novel about some very dark secrets. None of the characters are very likeable, but they are very real, and I think it is an achievement to write such a compelling novel without nice people in it. Also, I did begin to feel more sympathetic towards Laura as the story progressed. She may not be a reliable narrator but she is intelligent, and usually, sharply and wittily perceptive about what is going on around her. I was disturbed by her chronically low self-esteem and wished she could find a way to move on after 10 years.
The dead girl is remembered and idealised as a suicidal teenager, but the truth at least as far as Laura tells it is somewhat more complicated. Chloe was a monster who controlled and manipulated the feelings of her friends, keeping them hanging on for her and then pushing them away. She was viciously cruel. Then there is the very creepy boyfriend - Chloe always put the loathsome Carl before her female friends.
Jenn Ashworth portrays brilliantly the stifling atmosphere of the local town where they all went to school and where Laura and Emma continue to live.
She also highlights the hypocrisy of the media through the sharp contrasts between their portrayal of Chloe and Laura's version. There was also another tragedy that year, now completely forgotten by the press and by many people in the town - the difference between the coverage of these deaths is shocking.
For me, the build up of this novel took a while, but in the end I found it a powerful and disturbing study of jealousy, secrets and lies and I will probably look out for more work by Jenn Ashworth.
Cold Light is published in hardback by Sceptre and is available from Amazon for £9.09, or £6.99 on Kindle, and is due out in paperback early next year.
This review first appeared at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk