Saturday, 23 June 2018

Book Review: HER NAME WAS ROSE by Claire Allan

Author: Claire Allan
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Read: June 2018
Expected publication: 28 June 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

My musings:

Emily, a lonely young woman who has been trying to make a new start after a nasty relationship break-up, finds herself struggling with demons from her past when she becomes an unwilling spectator to a woman’s fatal hit and run accident. Guilt-stricken, she remembers how she prompted the victim to step out in front of her, only to see her being brutally mown down. With dread, she is wondering: was Emily the intended victim? Has she unwittingly sent the young woman to her death? Unable to put her doubts to rest, she looks for the victim’s profile on facebook – a perfect mother, a happy young wife. Everything Emily has ever wanted for herself. In a fit of longing for this perfect life, she applies for the dead woman’s old job, and discovers that it is not all that difficult to slip into someone else’s life ....

Her Name Was Rose starts off with a hidden sense of danger and menace that had me instantly hooked, and I was keen to find out more about Emily’s fate. The premise of someone slipping into a dead woman’s shoes sounded very intriguing, and I was keen to see how the author would play this.

I soon discovered that Emily was in many ways an infuriating, tormented characters (I am not completely sure whether I mean this in a good or a bad way). As a person who possesses at least what you can call rudimentary self-preservation skills (ok, not counting the times I precariously clamber around on slippery rocks to get that perfect bookstagram photo), I found it very difficult to understand Emily’s decision making processes (or lack thereof). This is a character who stumbles from one stupid decision to another, never taking pause to think and evaluate, even as her despairing friends and family advise caution. If it had been down to natural selection, Emily would not have made it to adulthood. The author did try to make Emily out to be a troubled soul, seeking refuge in sedatives and alcohol, falling apart under pressure and rushing into decisions that would get her into trouble. The concept of normal people finding themselves in extraordinary situations makes for a good premise for a thriller, but I felt that Emily’s dark side needed a bit more depth to make her character more credible and better fit the mould of unreliable narrator she is supposed to present.

I read a lot of psychological thrillers and like them best dark and twisty, messing with my mind. According to the author, she is new to the thriller genre, which is perhaps why some aspects of the story read more like a relationship drama to me, making me long for a bit more suspense and mystery. Without coming across too critical or a smart-arse (I’m trying for constructive feedback), these were the elements that did not work so well for me:


*) Too much being revealed too son, i.e. in the form of Rose’s diary, which gave away those very elements that would have created doubt in my mind as to the truthfulness of the main players. I am finding more and more that diary entries in mysteries rarely work for me, as there is a fine art to making them credible. If we had not had Rose’s POV to the time leading up to her death, there would have been mystery. As it was, all roles were defined very early on, leaving few surprises in store.

*) Threads that started off promising and mysterious, but ultimately didn’t go anywhere: eg Emily initially thought that Rose's accident was an attempt to kill Emily. However, this undercurrent of danger to Emily just petered out along the way and unfortunately never lived up to its full potential (which I thought it had).

*) Unconvincing red herrings: whilst Emily has a few suspicions as to who was behind Rose’s death, there was little doubt as to the “goodies” and “baddies” in this story – also largely due to Rose’s diary giving things away too early. I would have liked for some characters to be less predictable, which would have added to the mystery.

Enough said.  This is my very personal opinion and may not be an issue for other readers at all. Allan writes well, and addresses some very topical themes in her novel, such as mental illness, domestic violence, bereavement etc, which come to play in various parts of the story. Fans of the author’s earlier work or readers who enjoy a character driven drama will undoubtedly enjoy this story of dysfunctional relationships, but those (like me) who crave dark psychological suspense may find themselves a little bit unsatisfied. However, this was a fast and entertaining read, and I will definitely keep my eyes out for the author’s future books to see whether she fully crosses over to the “dark side”.

 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.

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