My Review of "Dear Amy" by Helen Callaghan
Margot Lewis is a teacher and writes an agony aunt column, “Dear Amy” for the Cambridge Enquirer. She receives a letter from Bethan Avery who has been missing for years, claiming to be held captive still and asking for help. Is it a hoax?
At the same time, a student at Margot’s school, Katie, has gone missing and Margot fears for her safety. After receiving more letters, Margot attempts to get the police to take her suspicions seriously and then becomes embroiled in the search for a potential serial killer as previous murders and kidnappings are uncovered. Soon Margot herself is in danger and only one man is prepared to help her uncover the deeply shocking truth.
It is difficult to review this book without spoiling it. What is striking and unique about this book is that you begin by believing you are reading a “another” psychological thriller about kidnapping but actually end up entangled in something far more complex, intriguing and chilling. Callaghan completely overthrows the reader and dares to put them in the exact same position as the narrator. Together you join Margot on her journey to piece together the web of perplexing memories, flashbacks and unfathomable past. Callaghan’s use of senses to evoke memories was particularly effective here.
Margot’s character is well crafted. Our opinion of her is challenged and tested. Female protagonists are very popular in this new wave of psychological thrillers and it’s great to see a whole genre being led by strong, intelligent, brave, “un-victim-like” women. These women are more complex and not always 100% likeable which makes their stories more compulsive and realistic. It also makes them more powerful within a plot. Margot is a strong, fearless, down to earth character. She has made often questionable decisions in order to survive. Callaghan’s ability to create such a multi-layered, tortured character is impressive. She has also clearly researched in depth the workings of mind and memory.
The character of Martin, the only person Margot finds she can depend on, is also well crafted. Although their bond develops rather too fast at a time when Margot thinks she is being stalked and in danger from strange men, but he does provide the reader with a more reliable point of view and objective perspective.
Finally I am impressed with the author’s ending. It’s difficult to say whether you finish the pages feeling completely satisfied. So much still seems unresolved but this also fits with the intrigue and is true to Margot’s character. The important threads are tied up and there is a sense of hope and optimism for the future.
“Dear Amy” is a page turner. The reader has to work quite hard to piece together the whole story but it is worth the effort. It is a dramatic read and one I was unprepared for. There is much more to this novel that first appears. I would rate it 3.5/5 stars and recommend to fans of psychological thrillers and mysteries about hidden secrets and buried pasts.
A huge thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel in advance in return for an honest and fair review.