"Saving Sophie" Sam Carrington
Her eyes are wide and swollen, wet with fresh tears- her face stained with old ones. She opens her mouth, just a little, daring to utter the words screaming inside her head: Please don't kill me. He notices the slight movement of her lips and immediately presses his fingers against them, suppressing the words before they can be formed. Only her breath manages to leak through the gaps of his soft fingers; a stifled exhalation. Her last.
A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?
Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?
Every parent's worst nightmare. Your 17 year old daughter is brought home one night by the police. Drunk and without any memory of what happened that evening. The next morning her friend Amy is missing. Then a body is found.
What happened? Can Sophie really not remember anything or is she actually hiding something?
There is a lot about breathing in this book. Not doing it, doing it too quickly, having it taken from you...... The main perpetrator of this crime against regular breath is the author Carrington herself. In fact, if you have remembered to breathe even by the end of the short prologue then you will stand a better chance than I did of surviving this novel!
Carrington's prose is relentlessly gripping. It is an absolute page turner of a thriller with all the perfect ingredients of a gripping and psychologically chilling book. Carrington is a great story teller and I really enjoyed this -her debut novel. It had everything I could ask for from a contemporary, mainstream, one-sitting-read and I'm sure it will fly off the shelves when it is published in paperback in December.
It opens typically with a prologue -an anonymous voice, a captured girl. A gag which falls to the floor with "an innocent sound, incongruent with the function it has just served." We then plunge headlong into the main body of the story, the short chapters barely leaving you enough time to release that lungful of held air before you prepare yourself for the next twist.
The chapters are told alternately from the point of view of Sophie and her mother, Karen. I liked this as the book is as much about Karen, her past, her secrets and her huge psychological issues as it is of Sophie. By having two main protagonists, not only does Carrington have two sets of secrets and buried pasts to uncover but she also has more relationships to explore and develop; friendship - both between Sophie's peer group and Karen's friendship with Rachel, relationships between mothers and daughters, teenager's relationships and marriage. This generates more tension and more subplots. At first I was a little confused by the amount of focus on Karen and her response to the missing girl rather than Sophie, who is seemingly more embroiled with danger and crime, but Carrington has meticulously planned for all this and nothing has been written without a purpose which will gradually become clear to the reader.
Even when we're not hyperventilating at the scenes about Sophie, Amy, the anonymous voice and the police investigation, we are still not allowed to let our breathing relax or feel any sense of calm as we share with Karen as she fights her own illness; her own debilitating demons, her own psychological nightmare as she tries to survive with advanced agoraphobia.
"Karen clawed at the top buttons of her cotton shirt, popping a few as she attempted to reduce the restriction around her neck. Her breathing was out of control already.....she was going to choke. Her lips tingled as the carbon dioxide in her blood reduced. She had to act now or she'd faint."
Initially I was a little frustrated by Karen as she does feel a bit of a victim. Her relationships with both her husband and daughter are fragile or even dysfunctional. Her husband is exasperated by her condition and sometimes too blunt with her. However, as the novel progressed, I developed more sympathy for her and the extra attention to her suffering and anxiety is a key part of the plot and the character's journey. Her constant thoughts about breathing, chocking, suffocation, panicking, tightness are all used to exaggerate the tension and whip the reader up into an equal state of panic. Karen's sense of hopelessness is palpable and I had sympathy for her as she tried to manage the conflict inside her - she knows her family is in a deeply precarious place but she really can't seem to overcome her inner demons and free herself from them. But if she doesn't.....
Social media and the internet are also key in this book. I love the way the web has affected crime writing - not only in making criminals more powerful or menacing, the work of the police more complex, but also in the amount of research that individuals can carry out independent from the police. Karen may be confined to the four walls of her house but she is able to use the computer to help explore her intuition. Whether this is for the best or not.....And it's amazing how deeply unnerving an email can sound in amongst a narrative and how much of someone's character it can betray.
This is also novel about secrets. Expect to be blown away with the revelations, surprises, twists and turns that rival any whirlwind or tropical storm. I loved this passage:
"The clock on the wall beside them ticked loudly, like a steady heartbeat: tick...tick...tick.
Once spoken aloud, the words were out there. A secret no longer. Tick.....tick....tick."
But, honestly, I don't think I can take much more from Carrington! The ending was brilliant and the epilogue...... well...... my breathing is yet to return to something more "regular"!
Carrington's writing is straightforward, accessible, full of pace, full of fluent dialogue and full of drama. It's a perfect one sitting read for Friday nights or a weekend.
And as the brilliant and witty Kaisha Holloway from thewritinggarnet wrote in her review - "perhaps Avon should package every copy of "Saving Sophie" with a paper bag because you need it. Every time Karen went to use hers to regulate her own breathing, I wanted to shout share it!"
The kindle version of "Saving Sophie" is available on 12th August 2016 and the paperback will be available from 15th Decemeber 2016 from Avon Publishers.
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk