Author – Penny Hancock
Published – 2012
Genre – Psychological thriller
This is one of those books that I had heard good things about on Twitter before I started to read it. Everything I saw suggested that this was going to be a gripping debut psychological thriller.
When Sonia answers her door to Jez, her friend’s teenage nephew, she sees a powerful reminder of someone from her youth. She lets Jez in and plies him with drink until he’s incapable of leaving. Perhaps the act isn’t intentional then, but when he is still in the house the following morning she visits her mother at her retirement home and returns with tranquilisers to help ensure Jez’s compliance. So very quickly her act becomes much more deliberate.
When Jez arrives at River Cottage Sonia is on her own, but she’s a voice coach who works from home, her husband is away on business and her daughter is at University, so Sonia must has to keep Jez under wraps when clients visit and her family return home.
Interspersed in the story are Sonia’s memories of Seb, the young boy who Jez reminds her of. And these parts I found fairly unpleasant. Sonia was obviously enthralled by the boy and would do whatever he asked of her, somehow this willingness to be led jars with the adult Sonia who has taken control of someone else’s life.
We also see the story from Sonia’s friend Helen’s perspective – the Aunt with whom Jez was staying. There seem to have been some cracks in Helen’s relationship with her husband, and Jez’s disappearance exacerbates this, as well as a problem with alcohol. Of course calling on her friend, Sonia, to help doesn’t get her the support she needs!
Set along the Thames in Greenwich, Hancock certainly manages to capture the sense of the area and the lives of the middle-classes there – though doubtless many of them don’t have a captive teenager!
Told in the present tense and mostly from Sonia’s point of view, this has all the ingredients to make a really gripping thriller, but somehow it missed the mark with me. Despite the fact that Jez is “captive” from the first chapter the pace felt quite slow. There were lots of opportunities to really ramp up the tension, but some of these were glossed over and others just didn’t manage to put me on the edge of my seat.
Jez felt one-dimensional – we never saw the situation from his point of view, and he didn’t come across as a terribly believable teenager (a fifteen year old who chooses to drink red wine?) and to be honest I found that I didn’t really care too much about him.
However, as the book draws to its conclusion there’s an increase in pace and the plot has some unexpected twist and turns.
Score – 3/5