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The Next Room - Sarah Harrison

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Sarah Harrison / Paperback / 188 Pages / Book is published 2006-04 by Severn House Publishers Ltd

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      27.03.2010 10:27
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      Recommended suspense novel

      ==Background:==

      I was feeling under the weather last week. A touch of flu and I desperately needed a good book to read, as I had just finished my previous one. Luckily my sister offered to pop down the shops and buy me a new one. She asked me what I wanted and I just said surprise me. She did, when she came back with this one.

      ==About the author:==

      Sarah Harrison was born in England in 1946. She was fortunate enough for her first novel of 16 was an international bestseller 'The Flowers of the Field' in 1980. As well as writing suspense/mystery novels, she has written children's books, articles, scripts and short stories. She has three children, two grandchildren, a second husband and two homes in London and Hertfordshire.

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Fiona Wade is hoping the move to Arbury Road in London will be a new and happy chapter in her turbulent life. It is a small flat, but then it didn't need to be big as it is only for her and her nine-year-old daughter Hannah. Her ex partner and Hannah father having moved out and gone abroad several years before.

      Fiona's life has always had a difficult life. When she was a child she heard and later saw her father abuse her mother. Within a few years he had left the family home and disappeared from their radar. Leaving Fiona and her mother on their own in a relationship that lacked love or emotion, it was more like a business relationship. Typified by Fiona not calling her Mum or Mother but by her Christian name Julia.

      She is still haunted by these Childhood experiences. However in the new flat, she starts to see an image of a young girl and senses someone with her when she knows there is no one else there. Then she sees her in a picture and realises it is only her who sees these things and this frightens her. How can she rid herself of this? As by now she is afraid to be alone and tries to keep someone with her at all times in the flat.

      ==My thought on this novel:==

      I must admit I found this an entertaining and enjoyable read. In many ways this suspense thriller surprised me but in a good way, as I never had any idea in which direction the story was going to go next. There were many unexpected twists and turns to enjoy and always a feeling of the unexpected. I thought the writing standard was good and through the authors descriptive abilities I felt that I was with Fiona in the flat when these mysterious things were happening.

      When my sister arrived back with this book I didn't know if I would thank her or not for helping me out. As I had never heard of this author before, so I didn't have a clue what I had let myself in for. But I had another two days off work with little else to do, so I thought I must at least give it a fair crack of the whip.

      Before I wrote this review I was surprised that I had never heard of this author before. As she has been an international bestseller and written 16 novels already. But not only that I had not even heard anyone talk about her work before be it good or bad. This novel I am reviewing is one of her latest ones having been written in 2005.

      So when I first looked at the novel my expectations were not particularly high. Added to that when I looked and felt the book it felt a little light with only 188 pages. I wondered what depth there could be in such a short story. So I looked next at the title of the book, this told me little about the story, although it did sound interesting. I always try and guess what the story is going to be about from the title, well on this story I completely got it wrong.

      In retrospect it was quite a deep and thoughtful title but not necessarily the best one for this book or even the most logical one. I wondered when I looked at the cover if this was going to be a 'chick lit' but quickly decided it wasn't, as it looked from this more mysterious than anything with a shadowy figure of a young girl.

      However it was the fantastic summary that really grabbed my attention and made me want to read this story. It was a very good length and it sounded superb. It gave me so much quality information about the story, but for me the author gave away too much of the story away, but it certainly got me hooked. Only in retrospect did I realise this but it certainly did not ruin my reading pleasure.

      I found when I started reading the story; I was immediately into it and enjoying it. Starting the novel with Fiona and Hannah moving into a new flat was for me a masterstroke. As from the very start I felt empathy towards them on their new adventure and as the flat was new to them as I was new to them at the same time. As a result I found it easy to relate to their feeling of apprehension and worry.

      The story I found very easy to read and it was quite intriguing. I liked the way the author very quickly told the reader about Fiona's sad childhood in a way you could tell even now the influence it had on her. I understood the way she felt burdened by this secret and the way she had a troubled relationship with her mother. The author excellently displayed this, so you could fully understand and empathise with Fiona's situation. While at the same time I had to know more about it and if there could be a solution to it.

      But at the same time I started to question why she started to question it more now. Was it that she was more mature so could see her relationship was different from other peoples? I just found it odd especially as she was a sensitive lady surely her father leaving them would have brought them closer together? If not at the time but definitely later. It was as if she blamed her Mum for him leaving when I thought if anything she would be sympathetic towards her. I probably wondered more about this than I should but that was because the author was at pains to always spell it out to the reader.

      What I particularly liked about the story was there were several different strands to it. While Fiona was feeling scared and vulnerable to the sighting of this little girl, there were other factors entering her and her daughter's lives. It was not all doom and gloom as can be with spooky mysteries, I thought that made a very nice change and I liked some good, new and exciting things happen Fiona, it certainly added to the story for me.

      I also enjoyed the way her father suddenly came back into her life and the way she needed to take a new perspective on her feelings because of her daughter. I would have liked this new relationship developed as for me it opened up so many interesting possibilities and feelings. As a reader I felt robbed when he left the story as I like Fiona had many answered questions for him and wondered if she could have built a proper relationship with him.

      I found it difficult to fault the story. It was always thought provoking but it in a way I did think it lacked that real killer or wow factor. I was content with what I had read but I think in six months time I would really struggle to remember anything about the story.

      The story itself was well paced and only towards the end of the conclusion did the pace and excitement increase. The conclusion itself was very good; it answered a lot of questions in a way I didn't consider. It all appeared logical and it was exactly the right place to end the story.

      My main criticism and I touched on it earlier was the length of the book. I would really have liked a longer, more drawn out and in depth story. I think the author could easily have accomplished this as I felt that the mystery and suspense could have been expanded. Some new scenes added to the build up would have made this possible.

      The novels main character was Fiona and the story was written through here eyes. I found her easy to both like and relate to. Indeed I was happy when good things happened to her as I felt she deserved happiness. I liked the way the author shared her inner most fears and concerns with the reader she really seemed to understand her and this was reflected in her writing.

      However I felt she was well supported by interesting and well thought out support characters. They were never dynamic or unusual just strange and well-defined characters. I particularly liked Julia Fiona's Mum because of the mystery that surrounded her and I found the relationship with her daughter very unusual. All the characters were well written and I found the dialog between particularly in keeping with their personalities and enjoyable.

      Two more things surprised me, firstly, the authors web site below is very good and I recommend a visit to it. The second is that the price for this small book I think is very expensive currently £9.99 for the paperback at Amazon. So perhaps second hand, library or a charity shop is a better alternative.

      Although it was a short story it was still one that was well signposted throughout, so you knew all the time exactly where you were. I would have liked an epilogue so that I could have seen what had happened to the main characters a few months down the line as I had grown attached to them.

      ==Conclusion:==

      I really enjoyed my first novel I have read by Sarah Harrison and as such would recommend this as an enjoyable suspense story. The story was well thought out, with a very good lead character that was easy to relate to. Yes I would have liked a longer more in-depth story but it was still a very good novel. I thanked my sister for helping me out and here excellent choice; I should trust her taste more!!

      ==Other information:==

      Pages: 188
      Price: £9.99
      Publisher: Severn House
      ISBN:10-0727891510
      ISBN:13-078-0727891518
      About the author: www.sarah-harrison.net
      Year: 2006

      @CPTDANIELS March 2010.

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