As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Orenda Books, 30 June 2017. ISBN:
Write about what you know is advice commonly offered on creative
writing courses – but you don't come across much fiction with a writer as the
protagonist. Mostly this isn't a bad thing; it could feel a tad repetitive and
maybe even incestuous. But it's hard to know how Sarah Stovell could have
constructed this dark, twisted psychological thriller without resorting to her
own background as both author and creative writing tutor.
Bo Luxton is a successful
novelist; Alice Dark is her student on a week-long residential course. The two
discover a bond, which flourishes and deepens after the course ends, alters
both women's self-image and culminates in a passionate, destructive sexual
affair which threatens Bo's stable marriage and home life.
The story of their
relationship is charted from both points of view, and right to the end it's
hard to tell whose view is the more accurate. All the characters leap off the
page, the two main players especially so; it's easy to feel in tune with
whichever of Bo and Alice is in charge of the narrative, so sympathies waver
from one to the other and back again. Both are supported by fundamentally good
but emotionally illiterate men, and both are damaged by the past: something of
a cliché, or at least a trope, in psychological drama, but here used to
The sense of place is almost
tangible in both Bo's idyllic Lake District retreat, complete with misty
mornings, placid lake views and ever-changing backdrops, and Alice's slightly
squalid, faux-student existence in Brighton.
The emotional undertow is
powerful; there is no overall gainer or loser, but a lot of potential
collateral damage. There's not so much a plot, more a story arc which leads to
a climax which is inevitable but could have gone in at least two directions.
Who is telling the truth? Is either of them? Is all truth subjective anyway?
Stovell drops in subtle pointers (including the book's title, but you'll need
to read it to find out why), but even those are laden with ambiguity.
It's a one-off, and it's
certainly a book you won't want to stop reading.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Sarah Stovellwas born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made
her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with
her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln
University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.