Expected publication: 26 July 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.
Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.
But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.
Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.
And then a body is found…
Elisabeth Carpenter was one of my most exciting new author discoveries in 2017, with her riveting psychological thriller 99 Red Balloons, and since then I have been anxiously waiting for the release of her new novel. Mother-daughter mysteries have always held a special fascination for me, so I was doubly excited to read the synopsis of the plot, which revolves around the mysterious disappearance of our main character’s mother over 30 years ago – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! And as soon as I started reading, I was happy to find that this was a gripping story that totally hooked me from the very beginning.
Carpenter uses a dual timeline to tell her story: Anna’s POV in the present as she is trying to find out the truth about her mother’s disappearance in Tenerife when Anna was only a month old; and Debbie’s voice from the 1980’s as she tells of the events leading up to her own demise, from baby Anna’s birth to the fateful holiday where she went missing. I loved Carpenter’s wonderful representation of life in the eighties, such as Debbie sitting up all night with a crying baby and staring at the test pattern on TV, and life lived out in the neighbours’ eyes. Having partially grown up in the eighties I thought the author captured the era perfectly! I could really relate to Debbie and felt so much empathy for her. It is terrible to have postnatal depression, even today, when there is more understanding and support available to deal with the condition, which would not have been understood well thirty or so years ago. Debbie’s growing sense of desperation and her slow unravelling are well represented, as are her feelings of isolation and failure as she is struggling to get through her days. Also well depicted are the gender roles of my parents’ generation, with the man going off to work and the stay-at-home mother expected to manage the children, the household and have dinner ready and served when the man of the house came home in the evening. There is a general sense of puzzlement when Debbie does not live up to her role, which only contributes to her isolation.
Having lost my mother as a child, I really related to the way Carpenter writes about the huge hole in Anna’s life left by the absence of her mother, her frustration about the half-truths she’s been told about Debbie’s disappearance and her need for answers. I always think that family secrets make for the best mysteries, and Carpenter has created a very gripping story that totally hooked me from the start. At times I felt as frustrated as Anna as all the people around her keep hiding the truth, only revealing the “alternative facts” families use to sweep dirty secrets under the carpet. There is so much raw emotion in both Debbie’s and Anna’s stories, it was impossible not to get emotionally involved! As in her previous novel, Carpenter has delivered three-dimensional, believable characters that touch your heart and your soul.
As with 99 Red Balloons, Carpenter throws in a few good curveballs and surprises, which made me suspicious of one character or the other at some stage in the book. I especially resented Monica, who seemed to be such a false friend to Debbie when she most needed someone. Anyway, I will not give any more away, except to say that the final denouement took me by surprise. I admit that there was one element in the ending that didn’t completely work for me, but I can’t say why without giving spoilers, so I will keep my mouth zipped tight and concede that endings rarely please every reader and on this occasion I am in that camp and will just have to take one for the team!
Carpenter has once again delivered a gripping story brimming with family secrets and engaging characters that had me hooked from the start. With a theme that touched a nerve in my own personal history, there was a lot of raw emotion contained in this story for me, and I especially loved the dual timeline setting. Readers who love mysteries revolving around family dynamics and skeletons in the closet should definitely give this one a go!
Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.