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Tuesday 21 November 2017

‘Trust Me’ by Zosia Wand

Published by Head of Zeus,
5 October 2017. 
ISBN: 978-1-78669229-0 (HB)

It's always a treat to discover a talented debut author, and when the genre of the novel is one of my favourites and the setting is one of the most beautiful areas of the UK, the pleasure is doubled.

The genre is troubled families, the location the Lake District, and Zosia Wand clearly knows plenty about both. The family in question is the modern blended kind, rather than the more conventional married couple plus two point four kids. Lizzie and Jonty aren't married; he is twice her age, and the kids are his. Though only one, seventeen-year-old Sam, appears in person for more than a page or two, both leap off the page in technicolor.

That age gap, and the fact that Lizzie is barely ten years older than Sam, lie at the heart of the story. After forming a close not-quite-maternal bond with Sam over several years. Lizzie now finds he is moody and uncomfortable around her. Jonty's attitude to fatherhood has always been on the casual side; Lizzie's early life forced her to grow up very early, and she's happy to take on the role of adult in the relationship and the responsibility for dealing with Sam's problem.  Except... It appears that everyone from Jonty to Sam's grandmother and even a local policeman think that Lizzie is the problem.

A tangle of relationships and emotions ensues. Female companionship is thin on the ground for Lizzie, and it's with some relief that she meets Rebecca, new to the small town they live in. She confides in her new friend, but soon wonders if that was a good idea...

Several times as I read, I found myself shouting out loud at Lizzie, warning her, begging her, desperate for her to calm down and think before she acts. But that's the writer's art: ensuring that the reader knows exactly what's going on when the characters don't, and making the protagonist so real that we can't bear for her to continue down the wrong path. The other lead characters, too, made me want to hug them, slap them, cheer for them, blow the whistle on them, whatever the storyline required. This wasn't a book to read dispassionately; I was right in there alongside the family and townspeople.

Another aspect of that art is to make the location so desirable and tangible that the reader aches to pack a suitcase and head off to a new life. Tarnside isn't a real place, but it seems to encapsulate everything that's good about the Lake District; it's a place this talented author clearly loves.

Trust Me isn't a murder mystery; nobody dies, and though there's a modicum of violence, the real crime is as topical as that blended family. It's billed as a psychological thriller; it's certainly the former, and the thriller label isn't wide of the mark either, especially when the tension ramps up regarding whether Lizzie's view of the darkening situation will be believed.

Did I say a treat and a pleasure? Trust Me was both.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. Trust Me is her first novel.

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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