"In Too Deep" Samantha Hayes
This really is a compelling psychological novel full of drama and suspense. I read a lot of it in the car travelling on our holiday and wasn't sure whether my queasy sense of anxiety was due to my husband's driving or the book! I also got severely reprimanded for nearly causing a few accidents with my sudden gasps and exclamations! I dare you not to do the same once you start reading this unputdownable thriller!
Gina, the protagonist, is unable to move forward with her life following her husband's sudden disappearance six months ago. Rick went out one Saturday morning with nothing but enough change to buy a newspaper and never returned. A couple of years ago Gina lost her son Jacob in a car accident and now, with her family is half it's original size, the thought of having lost Rick is almost too much for her to bear. She is consumed with guilt, blame and confusion as she frantically obsesses over his last minutes in the house and spends all her time searching for answers and explanations as the police investigation dries up and the calls from the family liaison officer dwindle. Her 18 year old daughter Hannah has returned for the Easter break from her first year at University. She is frustrated by her mother's emotional fragility and feels burdened by her. However she is also burdened with her own guilt and secrets which she wants to keep hidden from her mum. She is clearly hoping that by returning home she will escape the problems she is has tried to leave at University.
The novel then alternates between Hannah and Gina's narratives. Hayes has effectively created two different characters with distinct voices and their own plot. Both characters are likeable and easy to identify with. Both are equally intriguing as they reveal half finished thoughts, half finished pieces of information and allude to events preceding Rick's disappearance dropping a few clues and cliffhangers which imply that actually both of them are trying to keep something hidden and both of them may know more about Rick's disappearance than they are letting on. I loved Gina's line "the whole story sat precariously between my lips. One little spit and it would be out." We are left hanging, wondering whether she is going to spit it out or whether we are going to have to continue with our guess work. The way the story lines finally begin to converge and interact with each other is well executed; it shows Hayes expert control of the different threads of the plot and how accomplished she is as a writer. Her structure and pace creates a very exciting read full of well timed twists and revelations.
Gina and Hannah are both unreliable narrators. As the plot develops it becomes clear that both of them are capable of deception. Gina is so emotionally vulnerable it also leaves her open to exploitation and delusion. Neither can be fully trusted. I liked the fact that the story was set at a hotel. It created further suspense as Gina and Hannah were away from the security of their own home, possibly forced to see things more objectively but more importantly they were more exposed, more vulnerable and more susceptible to the influence and power of Susan, the hotel owner and manager.
And Susan is another very successful character. She reminded me of Ms Danvers from "Rebecca" - probably reinforced with the country house location. Susan appears kind, sympathetic, friendly and innocent but there's something about her which is slightly unconvincing - it's just impossible to quite put your finger on it!
I liked the voice of Paula, Gina's therapist. She was able to present calm, focussed observations and statements of sound advice which consequently gave Hayes the opportunity to reveal more information about Gina in a convincing manner rather than things becoming contrived or cliched.
I was amazed that by 94% I still was trying to guess the outcome and was literally gripped until the very last page. Hayes' handling of the final denouement was absolutely exceptional and very expertly done. The ending was completely stunning and I had to read the last paragraph three times I was so shocked! The finale was so dramatic and chilling, so full of surprise and shock that it really did take my breath away. I was rendered speechless.
This is a very readable, gripping thriller that completely fulfils the criteria for a psychological drama. It is well developed, well crafted, urgent, easy to visualise, vivid with tangible and realistic characters. It skilfully builds tension and I really did love the ending.
I am delighted to see that Hayes has quite a few more titles published and have already noted that "You Belong to Me" and "Before You Die" are in stock at my local library. I have previously read "Until You are Mine" and rated it 4/5 stars. I am going to rate this novel 5/5 stars. Yes, I am reading it on holiday but it gripped me, it entertained me, it intrigued me and kept me awake until midnight I was so caught up in the action. I think this is a memorable, clever book with a good cast of characters and I think Hayes delivers the perfect psychological thriller.
If you are a fan of "Grip Lit" and like authors like Sophie Hannah, C L Taylor, S J Watson, Linda Huber and Elizabeth Hayes, you will love this book!
Huge thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an opportunity to read this book prior to publication in return for a fair and honest review.
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