Thursday, 19 January 2017

Book Review: FIND ME by J. S. Monroe

Find Me

Title: Find Me
Author: J.S. Monroe
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Read: January 2017
Expected publication: 9 February 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Sometimes we choose to see only what we want. Sometimes what we see changes the way we look at everything.

Jarlath "Jar" Costello's girlfriend, Rosa, committed suicide when they were both students at Cambridge, and Jar has thought about her every day since. It's been five years, yet Jar is still obsessed with the idea that Rosa, the one true love of his life, is alive. He's tormented by visions of her and has disturbingly real sightings of her in unexpected places experiences the psychologist treating him describes as "post-bereavement hallucinations."

When Jar receives a message from Rosa's aunt telling him that she's just found Rosa's diary, he embarks on a frantic quest to finally make sense of the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. But the deeper he digs, the more confused he becomes as he is pressed into a dark underworld where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. When a startling discovery convinces him more than ever that these are not just hallucinations that Rosa really is alive Jar is thrust into the heart of a larger intrigue that may finally shed some light on Rosa's death even as it dangerously threatens his own."

My thoughts:

Five years ago, Jarlath’s (“Jar”) girlfriend Rosa disappeared without a trace, leaving behind an apparent suicide note and witnesses who claim they saw her on Cromer pier on a stormy night, from which she presumable jumped to her death. CCTV cameras in the area confirmed that Rosa entered, but never left the pier. Unable to come to terms with Rosa’s death, Jar still suffers from “post-bereavement hallucinations”, seeing Rosa in people he meets in everyday life – a stranger on the train, a woman shopping in the supermarket. When Rosa’s aunt Amy tells Jar that she has accidentally come across some encrypted files on her computer which could be Rosa’s diary, Jar hopes he may finally find some answers as to why Rosa felt the need to kill herself, and get closure. But the diary, once deciphered, throws up more questions than it answers – and strangest of all, doubts that Rosa did indeed jump to her death that night. Could Rosa still be alive? Jar soon discovers that he is not the only one looking for the answer to that question. The police have suddenly developed a keen interest in getting their hands on the files, and Jar has a feeling that he is being followed. By looking for Rosa, could he be putting them both in danger?

Whilst the general premise of Find Me is not original – a person presumed dead is being spotted by her loved ones, throwing up doubts that she or he is still alive – Monroe has certainly put his own unique spin on the idea and taken the reader on a twisty journey of conspiracy theories that takes a few quite unusual turns along the way. Jar’s voice gripped me right from the outset and drew me into the story.  I could literally feel his torment and feared for him as he set out to discover the truth behind Rosa’s disappearance. With Jar’s inner demons thus exposed, there is of course always the question of how reliable he is as a narrator, adding a bit of suspense and doubt to an otherwise well-trodden path. In some passages, the pace and style of the narrative was reminiscent of a Harlan Coben tale (which I usually enjoy). Rosa’s voice is introduced into the book in the form of diary entries, which start off as long narratives that would normally set me off on a rant that nobody writes a diary like that. However, as Jar’s hunt for the truth continues, her entries become more frantic, jumbled and cryptic, alerting the reader that time is running out for Rosa. And very cleverly it all ties together and makes perfect sense in the end, which I will not spoil here.

Just as the reader is tempted to cast a deep sigh heavenwards, thinking that he / she has worked it all out, the story twists and turns and throws all theories out the window once again. The ending is quite unexpected, and for good measure the author seasons it with a last sprinkling of doubt, which will leave a little seed of “what if” behind, even after all the threads have come together. I really love that in a mystery! Whilst I felt the story lost a bit of momentum in the second half, with the introduction of another POV, it always kept the right amount of intrigue to look forward to the moment where I could pick it up and continue reading – even though it did not have the same grip on me as Jar’s first chapters. Some well-researched dark and often confronting elements in the later part of the book added depth lacking in other similar mysteries. This made up for the moments of having to suspend disbelief, especially concerning the timeline, and a couple of plot holes that didn’t quite add up. But of course, in true conspiracy theory fashion, it could be possible! All in all, a very enjoyable, fast paced and intriguing read. I look forward to reading a lot more from this talented author in future.

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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