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LENGTH: 368 pages
PRICE: £5.49 on Amazon (£4.99 Kindle version)
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "'You kept my secret. I know yours now. That makes us even.'
PAUL has been led into a life of crime by his schoolyard protector, Daniel. Now, at nineteen, he must bear witness against his friend to avoid imprisonment.
LOUISA, who years ago fled from her own dark secrets, spends her days renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan mansion.
A relationship develops between them, and Louisa starts to believe she can finally experience the happiness she had given up on; but it soon becomes apparent that neither of them can outrun their violent past . . ."
MY VIEW: I read, and loved, Erin Kelly's first book, The Poison Tree which I reviewed on here (http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/printed-books/the-poison-tree-erin-kelly/1615266/) and was itching to get hold of this next book. Her first novel had been infused with a sense of time, place and mystery - and each character was well-drawn and believable. The tension in The Poison Tree was almost palpable, so I was expecting more of the same (if not better) from The Sick Rose. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.
Personally, I found that this book read more like a YA novel than an adult 'thriller'. Very early on, we learn that Louisa has done something in her past that she regrets (and has been hiding from for years) and it's not far into the book when we know exactly what it is - although I won't tell you here. Paul's past isn't quite as intriguing and then novel flitted back and forth between their past lives (as well as their present association). I found the chapters involving Paul incredibly boring - and these are the chapters that could be mistaken as being aimed at a much younger audience. Paul is only 19 (far younger than Louisa, whom he enters into a relationship with who is 39) and much of his back-story surrounds his involvement with a criminal family - in particular his friend Daniel. As such, his past centers around him being fifteen, sixteen etc and unless someone's writing about the gritty reality of youth, as opposed to what shirt someone wears for a party, it's not going to grip me! As a result of something that happens between the friends one night, Paul is sent, for his own safety, to work on a botanical project that Louisia is overseening in the gardens of a crumbling historical house, which is where their story comes together.
She is immediately struck by his resemblance to her first love, Adam (source of the 'mystery' surrounding Lousia) and they eventually strike up a relationship. In all honestly, there is nothing compelling about the 'love story' between them, nor is there anything mysterious about Paul's past as far as the reader's concerned. Louisa's past is slightly better written - and I do feel this author is at her strongest when describing the 80s and the complex and cloying relationships that people can form. Without a doubt, Lousisa's chapters are more interesting but still they didn't provide enough intrigue or depth to have me on the edge of my seat.
I can't say too much more about the book without giving away the central plot. Suffice it to say, I finished it feeling slightly cheated - and the ending itself was just too 'pat' for my tastes. Also, Louisa's 'big secret' which we know about quite quickly, didn't even pan out to be quite as bad as the reader may have suspected (the details put a different slant on it and, consequently, made me think 'Oh, is that it? So what'.) As ever, when I read such a strong first novel and a significantly weaker second novel, I do wonder whether the author actually wrote the latter first (but it wasn't strong enough for publication and was then shunted out after they gained success with another book). Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad read, it's just not what I expected, given how much I enjoyed The Poison Tree.