"S is for Stranger" Louise Stone
There are two sides to every story.
But only one is true.
Sophie wished she’d paid more attention when her little daughter, Amy, caught sight of a stranger watching them. She only looked away for a second. But now Amy’s gone.
No one trusts an alcoholic. Even a sober one. The police are suspicious of Sophie’s tangled story and so is her ex-husband, Paul. Especially when new information emerges that changes everything.
But what if Sophie is telling the truth? What if her daughter really is missing? And what if that stranger at the fairground wasn’t really a stranger at all…
I picked this up for 99p on Kindle following a flurry of reviews on Twitter when it was published. It is billed as a "gripping psychological thriller" and oh my word, it really is just that!
It starts of reasonably predictably and true to "grip lit" form. We meet Sophie, her ex-husband Paul, and her young daughter Amy. There are a few issues introduced - the tension between Paul and Sophie, Sophie's deep frustration about her lack of custody over Amy and Amy's confusion about her parent's relationship. They are at the fairground to allow Sophie her one day a week with Amy.
Stone encourages the reader to side with Sophie as she is the narrator. Sophie clearly distrusts Paul's parenting skills and is quick to judge even though it is her that has restricted access. The reader joins her in this suspicion and it is hard to warm to him. A subtle suggestion of Amy's safety is implied while Paul is with her and Amy's reference to being watched, but it is not until Sophie wanders off with Amy that disaster strikes. She takes her eyes off her for one moment and then - very parent's worst fear - Amy disappears.
But that is not the shocking part. When Sophie phones Paul to check he hasn't got Amy, he replies calmly, "I don't know what you're talking about. I wasn't at a fairground with you today."
That was it. I could not put it down. I was well and truly hooked.
And then Stone relentlessly dragged my through the whole novel at such a rate my brain was spinning with all the twists, shocks and revelations. There was no way I could switch the light off and go to sleep even if I had wanted too!
Sophie is a complex character. An alcoholic who no one is prepared to give any credit or time to. She's deluded, vulnerable, broken. She has a past - a secret that haunts her. And what of Paul? Is he telling the truth? Which of them do we trust? Who do we believe? Stone enjoys the roller coaster ride of unreliable narrators, characters who are hiding the truth and characters with psychological issues that are preventing them from being able to accept reality or operate within the real world. The ending is as eerie and "shiver inducing" as the opening - I can still hear Sophie's final words ringing in my ear..... *Shivers again*
This is truly psychologically thrilling. It's full of confusion and suspense. As reviewer "The Book Review Cafe" wrote on Goodreads:
The air of tension and malice that ricochets throughout this book make for an intriguing and compelling read.
But it is a light read too. Stone writing is fluent, controlled and easy to follow. In fact this is another reason why I raced through the book. It is very readable.
The reviews seem very mixed which I am a little surprised at but I would recommend your give this book a whirl. You may like me, get that amazing buzz from reading an opening that almost makes you forget to breath.
This book was my holiday read, at a ridiculous bargain price. It is a psychological thriller with all the perfect ingredients to keep me suitably unnerved and desperate to read just one more page! Sometimes you just can't ask for more.
For more recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3