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To those who saw Sally Donaldson's tortured face, it was clear that she had met an unnatural death. A single tragic accident? Or something so sinister it doesn't bear thinking about...?
When some muffled thuds are heard coming from the partially filled grave of newly-wed Sally Donaldson, the verger thinks he is imagining things and dismisses it.
Over the next few days however, others report hearing faint sounds and an exhumation order is granted. Local newspaper reporter Kate Hemingway sneaks into the small churchyard when the coffin is opened, and the scene she witnesses is so horrific she can never forget it.
As she starts work on the story, she soon finds herself caught up in a sinister and macabre cover-up. At the centre is a respected anaesthetist who harbours a secret obsession - and nothing is going to stand in his way...
I must point out that Twilight is not a novel for the faint hearted. Peter James, it is said, has found his niche somewhere between Stephen King and Michael Crichton and after reading this book I can understand why that has been said if Twilight is anything to go by.
I had never read any of Peter James work prior to reading this and Twilight has left me wanting to read more.
I would describe Twilight as a thriller full of suspense. From the first page I was hooked as I was quickly drawn into the story, which begins in 1990 and with the muffled noises coming from the grave of Sally Donaldson. The thought of being buried alive doesn't bear thinking about and I quickly became absorbed in the story, as I wanted her body to be exhumed and find there had been a terrible mistake. I thought this would be how the story would go. Sally would be alive and someone would be brought to justice for their terrible mistake. But I was wrong. This is a thriller after all and they don't always have happy outcomes.
After the first chapter, which ends with more noises coming from the grave which nobody hears, I turned the page eager to find out more, only to find the story had switched to years earlier in 1967. It is here we are introduced to a young Harvey Swire and a separate story begins which tells of him growing up and the person he is and is yet to become. Harvey develops a strange obsession with life after death following the death of his mother and the experiences he has. An obsession that shapes his future as he joins the medical profession.
Whilst I was initially disappointed by finding this chapter was about Harvey (as I wanted to find out what was happening with Sally) I found myself again very quickly drawn in to this sub-story and my initial disappointment quickly disappeared.
Harvey Swire is a very complex character, even as a young boy and I found him just as interesting to read about as the first chapter.
The story continues in this style, alternating chapters devoted to the present day and then back to Harvey Swire as he grows up. You know that somewhere along the way he is going to be involved in the present day scenario but I wasn't at all sure how or why at this point.
The present day chapters revolve around reporter Kate Hemingway as she refuses to back down on the Sally Donaldson story, despite being told to by her boss. Kate suspects something isn't quite right and as she delves deeper and asks questions, she suspects a cover-up and finds witnesses appear to be sworn to secrecy.
We don't actually find out much about Kate's life, but that really isn't important. She is quite a feisty character, but at times her actions I found a little strange. She places herself in some dangerous situations which of course make for great suspense, but I also found myself thinking she was silly at times, wondering why she was doing some of the things she does alone, without enlisting help when it was available in the form of fellow reporter Patrick who was there for her throughout.
Silly or not, it is indeed Kate's determination to uncover the truth that keeps you turning the pages through the first two thirds of the book. The final third sees the plots finally merge to provide a thrilling ending.
The character of Harvey Swire is quite chilling and you fear for Kate's safety, although she does not seem to realise how much danger she is really in and by the time she does, will it be too late?
Peter James truly is a master of suspense if Twilight is anything to go by. He writes in such a way that allows you to clearly visualise each scene as the suspense intensifies and I became totally absorbed in this book.
He doesn't spend a lot of time explaining clinical procedures with lengthy descriptions that are difficult to understand. Instead he mostly has the character of Kate asking questions as a reporter that ordinary folk would want to know. The answers are clear and concise and this way you learn about clinical procedures in a way that is easily absorbed and doesn't leave you baffled.
The pace of the story never really slows down and I found it a real page turner. Kate and Harvey are the main characters and most of the book is devoted to them, but there are also some small yet interesting parts featuring Kate's fellow reporter Patrick, an old lady who is a touring medium and finally a funeral director who also is quite a sinister character.
I finished reading this in 2 days but probably would have read it in one day if I hadn't had to go to work!
I did think that I knew how it would all end by the time I got to the final chapters of the book, but I was wrong. There are a few twists along the way and the suspense is kept up right until the final page.
Twilight is a little gory in places and some of the scenes are quite horrifying. The thought of being certified dead when you are not, is a very scary and horrific thought in itself and as I said earlier, this book is not for the faint hearted.
What it is though, is a good thriller with page after page of suspense. A gripping read which has left me wanting to read more from Peter James.
Twilight is currently available from Amazon, priced at £4.62 new or from 1p used.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Orion (17 Nov 2005)