As a woman driving alone on a country road at night, Cass isn’t that inclined to get out of her car when she passes what appears to be a motorist with engine trouble. It’s pouring buckets, and Cass’s cottage is not far away. Finding out the next day that a woman was murdered is a huge shock, more so when the driver is identified and Cass realizes that she knew the victim.
There is only a small cast in THE BREAKDOWN so our suspicious eyes are trained on characters that don’t have anywhere to hide; they are all close to Cass’s life and are becoming increasingly aware that her life is in disarray. Cass becomes more hemmed in by her memory glitches and is desperate to regain control of a life that is being puppet mastered by someone who must be close to her. THE BREAKDOWN is a very suspenseful read, tempered with periods of time where you alternately feel desperately sorry for Cass in her struggles, or frustrated with her as she seems to be going around in circles.
Like this author’s first sleeper hit, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, THE BREAKDOWN very much narrows the focus to one female character who is struggling without support and is the only one who can save herself. The everywoman leads are frighteningly relatable; we all know someone like them, or have experienced something similar. Compulsive, entertaining and tense reading from an author to watch.
Review - All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker
Teenager Jenny Kramer attends a high school party where most of her town’s young people are in attendance. Friends and people she has grown up with in a small town. Children of family friends. Making the decision to leave the party early, Jenny is brutally attacked nearby by an assailant whose face she never sees.
As the teen struggles to deal with both the mental and physical trauma, Jenny’s parents make the decision to allow medics try a new drug on their daughter that will serve to delete the immediate painful memories of the attack.
Charlotte and Tom Kramer come to regret that decision as they witness Jenny’s struggle to return to her former self in the following months. In comes Dr Forrester, who currently is dealing with a volatile male client who has also has lost trauma memories. It is the belief of the psychiatrist that recovering those lost memories will greatly aid his patients on their road to recovery.
As it is with all books written in the first person narrative, we are required to spend a lot of our reading time immersed in the thoughts of one character. Dr Alan Forrester is also seeing the parents of the victim, and believes in the holistic approach of counselling the entire family. Or is that what he is really doing?
As the doctor pontificates on about his psychiatric profession as it now relates his new case, three quarters of this book become quite soporific to read. In its last quarter ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN however finds its feet and we are dragged onwards to the conclusion with ill feeling. This is not a novel about the victim of a violent crime; we don’t in fact hear much from the victim. The book is full of self-serving individuals who all have a connection to our narrator, the narcissistic psychiatrist who has an agenda of his own that is always at the forefront. It is very much a book about avoidance.
It does feel too much too late when we are introduced to the major plot twist; backstory at the end when it could have been fed through the narrative to create a greater sense of foreboding. ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN is an uneasy dark thriller that has a very, very slow burn. It does give an interesting alternate viewpoint to the ripple effect of a violent crime in a small community where each decision made and each confidence revealed can catalyst further catastrophic events.
Review - Only Daughter, Anna Snoekstra
In 2003 Rebecca Winter is doing everything your typical teenager does at sixteen; slaving away at her first job, hanging out with friends and negotiating her way into the world of adulthood with shaky steps. Her family life is at best tolerable and she has no clear idea of what her life will be like even one year down the track. But she hopes that it will change for the better. Someone is either playing terrible tricks on her or her mind is doing that all on its own. That sensation of being watched is now almost ever constant.
ONLY DAUGHTER has two perspectives. The first is that of Bec Winter who disappeared in 2003 and the second is that of her current day doppleganger, a "homeless by choice" young woman. The imposter settles quickly into Bec's life with loving parents, two younger brothers and friends who have been mourning the loss of the vivacious sixteen year old version of Bec for over a decade. Was she really missed? Who knows the truth? It's the opportunistic and not malicious insertion into the Winter family by the imposter which makes this novel interesting. The imposter is someone outside of the circle who is observing them all with fresh and untainted eyes, making her own judgment calls and piecing together what the (still missing) Rebecca was really like. Yes, there is slippage in this read that may be due to editing in the attempt to make the setting more universal (ie American) or it may just simply be that the author felt like mixing things up i.e. Mom (us) and Mum (Australian). Little slips like these don't distract too much away from the moody endless summer/Puberty Blues feeling that ONLY DAUGHTER economically evokes; it's a very familiar (and oddly low-tech) setting/period that most young Australians will recognize; all of us have gone through those rites of passage such as the first menial job whilst still in high school, and battled through those tumultuous teenage relationships that are never built to last beyond our childhood. You'll nip through this novel in one or two sittings; it is not dragged down by the minutiae of a police investigation (though there is a detective still working the case) and the speed and ease in which young people live their responsibility-free lives is conveyed well. As the imposter increasingly becomes aware that she has stepped out of the proverbial frying pan into something much worse, the tension slowly builds. It does take an astonishingly long time for the imposter to realize that if she's around, and Bec isn't, there is possibly a killer still about - observing everyone and faking their personality just as much as the new Rebecca is too.