From the wonderfulness that is the pile of New Zealand Crime fiction.
From the Blurb:
‘Cynthia can understand how Anahera feels just by looking at her body.’
Review - REMEMBER ME THIS WAY, Sabine Durrant
Everyone keeps telling me I have to move on. And so here I am, walking down the road where he died, trying to remember him the right way. A year after her husband's death, Lizzie goes to lay flowers where his fatal accident took place. As she makes her way along the motorway, she thinks about their life together. She wonders whether she has changed since Zach died. She wonders if she will ever feel whole again. At last she reaches the spot. And there, tied to a tree, is a bunch of lilies. The flowers are addressed to her husband. Someone has been there before her. Lizzie loved Zach.
It's getting to the stage now where you'd be forgiven for wondering if we're at peak "how well do you know those nearest and dearest to you" psychological thrillers, particularly those that concentrate on the relationship between husbands and wives. Which makes REMEMBER ME THIS WAY a noteworthy novel - standing out as extremely memorable in a very crowded peer group.
Right from the outset there is something profoundly unsettling about REMEMBER ME THIS WAY. From the time that Lizzie is heading for the spot where her husband Zach died it's an odd situation. When the bunch of lilies from another person appears at the spot where Zach died in a fatal accident it feels right that there's something profoundly off about this whole scenario, not just the odd things that Lizzie is discovering about their relationship, the abuse and manipulation.
Durrant is skilled at creating these discomforting, off-putting scenarios. In REMEMBER ME THIS WAY it's the emotion of the anniversary of Zach's death, it's the diary entries, it's the way that you're often in the head of a man that is now dead and it's the tight focus on Lizzie and Zach. There's something very unsettling about knowing things about a dead man that his own wife never has, and there's something uncomfortably challenging about dealing with Lizzie's emotion and unravelling while you really start to doubt the truth about Zach - right down to whether he is actually alive or dead and therefore what happened in that car accident.
The tension and disquiet starts right at the beginning of REMEMBER ME THIS WAY. It doesn't let up as it walks the reader through an abusive relationship. It's about the secrets that we all have, and the power that knowledge of those secrets can give somebody. It's about who do you trust, and what do you do when trust is obliterated. It's about human relationships and how they can be harmful not helpful.
Everything I've been fortunate enough to read by Sabine Durrant has left me with heaps of questions, and a lot of thinking to be done. For like-minded fans of psychological thrillers, those books that delve into more than just who and what, but why, REMEMBER ME THIS WAY stands out as another outstanding, memorable and thought-provoking book.
Review - CLAUSTROPHOBIA, Tracy Ryan
Claustrophobia is the taut, compelling story of a young Perth wife who sets out to protect her husband by stalking his ex-lover, but unexpectedly falls into a passionate affair and a world of lies. In a novel that possesses the dark wit, psychological insight and narrative momentum of a Patricia Highsmith, Tracy Ryan captures the disturbing elements that sometimes lurk beneath the surface of a marriage.
Using a title like CLAUSTROPHOBIA obviously sets certain expectations for readers, which luckily, in this outing are uncomfortably well imagined. There's something incredibly claustrophobic about everything to do with this book. The enclosed, world that the two main characters Pen and her husband Derrick occupy. From their home life, working together at the same school, even when Pen finally breaks away to another job, albeit for reasons that Derrick doesn't know. It's not just circumstances though. Of course, with Pen as the main narrator of the book there is an inward focus, but even with that there's something locked down, controlled yet bubbling about everything that places the the reader in a claustrophobic, uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic position.
There's also something incredibly compelling about CLAUSTROPHOBIA. Not necessarily likeable, these characters are mesmerising. Right from the beginning when the book starts out in such a restrained manner, to the ending that came out of nowhere, in one hell of a rush, it's one of those stories that just gets in. That stays in your mind, becomes hard to put down while reading, and hard to forget afterwards. Partially it's the way that Pen steps out from the shadows of her husband, and over-bearing mother, and her motivation for doing that which gets in. Partially it's the unexpected path her steps lead her down. Mostly it's the idea that the reader is closely following a momentous occasion in the life of a woman who, with increasing confidence, for better or worse, takes control of her own life.
The geography of Perth plays into this feeling of movement, of separation - somewhere between Pen and Derrick's quiet, uneventful life in the Perth Hills and the brash city with its University Campus and night life, Pen changes. Not just her perception of her own life, but her sense of ability, of empowerment. And about then in the book you know that definitely somebody, somewhere is going to get hurt. Who that is, how it happens and who does what is a mystery right up until that out of nowhere ending. And at that point, as a reader you're likely to be just a little bit torn. Whether you liked Pen up until that point, whether you had any sympathy, or even found her compelling, suddenly there's a moral dilemma you're going to have to do a bit of thinking about. Which is exactly what a psychological thriller of this kind should do.