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Monday, 7 August 2017

‘Obsession’ by Amanda Robson

Published by Avon,
1 June 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-00-821221-6 (PB)

It's not so long since domestic noir was a new kid on the thriller block; more recently it has become pretty much a staple.

Obsession is not only a well-crafted addition to the genre, but also an object lesson in why not to have an affair. Carly and Rob appear to be ideally matched; he is a popular GP, she is a nurse at his surgery, and her flamboyance and outgoing personality add spark and excitement to his otherwise humdrum world. Then Carly, in a fit of discontent and possibly mischief, asks a fateful question: who would Rob like to be with if not her?

Rob misguidedly admits to a fancy for their friend Jenni, and it proves to be the start of a downward spiral. Carly is already slightly unbalanced, and has a manic-depressive breakdown which triggers a cycle of infidelity with ultimately tragic consequences.

At first, I wondered if this deceptively simple storyline was being stretched too far. I was wrong. As it progressed, the web of relationships grew more and more tangled and the tension level ramped up and up. Just when I thought things were as bad as they could possibly be for Rob, Carly, Jenni and Jenni's husband Craig, they started to get a whole lot worse, culminating in an ending which was as shocking as it was inevitable.

Amanda Robson has chosen a complex structure for her debut novel; the four main characters take turns to relate events from their own point of view, and the result is wincingly effective. Each of the four emerges clearly: desperate Carly, who hides her vulnerability under a cloak of colourful clothes and behaviour; meek-and-mild Jenni, whose steely determination is equally well hidden; bemused Rob, caught in the middle; macho Craig, who tries to have it all. There are well-drawn minor characters too, notably Pippa, eight going on eighteen and Carly and Rob's capable eldest; Anastasia, who crosses Craig's path with unfortunate consequences; and Sharon, the motherly practice manager.  

Obsession is very much a novel about people: how they allow tortuous and ultimately destructive emotions to get in the way of everyday life. For a debut, it is assured and well thought out. I look forward to seeing what Amanda Robson writes next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the Poisons Unit at Guy’s Hospital where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning – and this book makes terrifying use of poison throughout. Amanda attended the Faber novel writing course and writes full-time. Obsession is her debut novel. She lives in London and Wales, with her lawyer husband.

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.

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