I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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This book, like many others released in the past 12 months, is recommended for ‘fans of Gone Girl’. Whilst most of the novels labeled as such don’t live up to this acclaim, I felt that this one did. It’s not particularly similar in plot or the writing style – but what both Gone Girl and this novel have in common is that they had me thinking about them while I wasn’t reading them. They both pose countless questions, teasing the reader with small nuggets of information, but holding back from revealing the full story.
This book had me pondering over all of the characters, coming up with my own theories on the outcome when my mind should have been on other things. I had relatively average expectations going into it, but I’m glad I pressed request on this one. I would go as far as to say this is the best psychological thriller I’ve read this year.
Leah Mills leads a quiet, lonely existence. She works in a library, and surrounds herself with books both at work and at home which she uses to escape from her past. She has no real friends to speak of, and has always been happy that way.
“On the surface, perhaps the best years were ahead of me, but I couldn’t tell Maria, or anyone else, that my past had erased any chance of a future.”
But recently, her curiosity has been piqued by a dating website which she begins spending more and more time on. At first, she’s just watching other people’s conversations play out, but after a while she is drawn into one-on-one conversations with a user called Julian, and she starts to wonder if her life could change. But someone is watching Leah. Someone who thinks she doesn’t deserve a chance at happiness; someone who is determined not to let her forget her past.
From the first few pages, the writer deftly drew me into Leah’s world. With a mix of sympathy and intrigue, I pitied her existence, but was also desperate to know what had happened in her past to cause her to live her life this way. This information is revealed very gradually in a separately unfolding timeframe which follows Leah’s time in school. Croft takes the time to build up the characters in both Leah’s present-day life and her school days, offering the reader an insight into each of the characters’ personalities, but leaving you with no idea who to trust.
There were so many questions flying through my mind while reading this book – why does Leah live such a lonely life? What is she punishing herself for? What happened to her old school friends? Who is her present-day stalker and why are they so determined to take away everything good in her life? The stalker’s efforts start subtly and build to a crescendo, making for a deliciously dark, slow-burning, multilayered story as Croft builds layer upon layer of intrigue and then peels back the layers of Leah and the surrounding characters to reveal the brutal truth. I don’t want to give too much away on this book but the end destination is worth that tense, nail-biting journey to get there. I loved it.