Sunday, 28 August 2016

Book Review: SAVING SOPHIE by Sam Carrington

Saving Sophie

 Saving Sophie
Author: Sam Carrington
Publisher: HarperCollins, Maze
Read: August 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?

Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

A taut psychological thriller, perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and I Let You Go.

My thoughts:

How would you feel if the police turned up on your doorstep one night, bringing  your severely intoxicated 17-year-old daughter home, who you thought was safe in the company of a group of friends? Or the next day, when the body of your daughter’s best friend is found, and your own child has no memory of how the friends got separated or what happened that night. A parent’s worst nightmare – was your child in any way involved, or worse still, is she in danger?

It seems to have become a trend these days to populate psychological suspense novels with a bunch of unlikeable characters, perhaps in an effort o make them more interesting or perhaps to follow in the footsteps of successful novels like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (both of which I really liked, by then way). However, I find that usually only very skilled writers can pull this off successfully. It is an art mastered by few to know how to let just the right amount of humanity shine through the sheer awfulness of the character, or to exploit those very flaws to make the person appear more interesting or rounded. To put it bluntly – unlikeable characters rarely work for me as a reader. So this is perhaps the reason why Saving Sophie did not tick the boxes for me. Whilst I had empathy for Karen, who suffers from agoraphobia after a horrific attack, all in all I thought her to be whiny, self-indulgent and irrational in her decision making, and I could not warm to her despite trying to excuse those character traits as going hand in hand with her mental illness. As for Sophie and the other self-centred, rude and unlikeable teenagers, I spent most of the time torn between an impulse to smack them, wrench the phones out of their sweaty little palms and tell them to “grow up!” Mike, Karen’s husband, is sarcastic and a bit of a cold fish, so no real feelings for him either. And the police detectives, who could have shed some light on a different angle of the story and given the reader at least one person to champion, were too under-developed to be of real interest. About a third into the novel I had a feeling that none of the characters would really grow on me, and to be honest I didn’t care if the psycho responsible for Erin’s murder wiped out the lot of them. Sorry!

Having a rather logic-driven mindset, I am also sadly lacking in any Olympic-grade talent to suspend disbelief, and therefore generally don’t like reading novels where ¾ of the action could have been prevented if the key characters had acted in a reasonable manner. By reasonable I don’t necessarily mean “doing the right thing”, but acting in a way consistent with the personality traits they are endowed with. I would hope that any average citizen Jane Doe mother, whose daughter’s best friend has just been murdered would surely call the police as soon as she fears for her child’s safety or has any theory as to who could be responsible for the crime. Especially if she had been attacked herself in the past and still lived with the consequences of that event. In my personal opinion she would have to have a pretty strong reason not to do so, unless she is a complete idiot. I would think that in the real world this same mother would be making a nuisance of herself, calling the police daily to check on any developments and test her theories, and insist that everything possible is being done to keep her daughter safe.  Given the circumstances of Sophie’s involvement that night, I would certainly not let my own child out of my sight for a while and put measures in place to ensure her safety – the child is only 17, for crying out loud! I would also hope that any average citizen teenage girl, whose best friend has just been murdered and who receives creepy photos and messages on her phone, would also be scared out of her wits and pretty keen to let a parent or the police know – or at least act scared instead of just like any stereotypical obnoxious teen going about her daily business. The only thing I could think was: “Are these people for real?” Sadly for me the answer was no.

All in all, whilst I really liked the premise of the book and pounced on the opportunity to receive a preview copy from Netgalley, Saving Sophie sadly was not my cup of tea. Seeing that many readers really enjoyed it, I guess I am one of the minority, but one quite happy to stick with novels where I can like and relate to at least one of the characters. Call me old-fashioned.

1.5 stars from me for enjoyment, rounded up to 2 for the general premise of the story, which I thought had potential.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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