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Friday 9 February 2018

‘I Did It for Us’ by Alison Bruce

Published by Constable,
4 January 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-47212-384-8 (HB)

We all come with baggage, but some of us carry more than others. Alison Bruce's protagonist Emily is heavily loaded down; in fact, her entire life has blown up in her face, and all because she chose to tell the truth, blow the whistle and try to do the right thing.

After several years of happily married life, a handful of secure friendships and a business which was beginning to gain ground and head for great success, Emily finds herself renting a shabby flat miles from anyone she knows, completely shunned by and cut off from everything she held dear – and all because she cried rape on her husband's sleazy best mate. The problem was that the jury found him not guilty, and she was labelled a jealous wife. Now her husband is having a baby with another woman, her father won't speak to her and her best friend, who is inexplicably in a relationship with the sleazy mate, hates her guts with a vengeance.

Emily makes friends with Joanne, the widowed mother of two in the flat beneath hers, and begins to think she can start living again – at least until Matt appears on the scene...

I wasn't sure almost until the end of this engrossing novel whether I was meant to see Emily as an unreliable narrator. Maybe the verdict was the right one and she wasn't raped at all – in which case, what did that mean about everything that happened later? The story is told in the first person, so the reader only ever gets Emily's view of the situation, and that adds to the ambiguity. I won't give the game away; I'll just say that it's hard not to veer from one side to the other and back again as the narrative unfolds, but the final twist is a corker which I did not see coming.

Bruce knows how to create characters, sketch a background and build tension; that was what kept me reading past bedtime several times. She's especially good at children; serious-minded Molly, Joanne's small daughter is as sharply drawn as the adults. And whether or not I was supposed to, I certainly wanted to give nearly all the men in the cast a good slap.

Alison Bruce is better known for police procedurals, but on this showing, she's every bit as skilled and creative when she turns her hand to the psychological thriller.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Alison Bruce was born in Croydon and grew up in Wiltshire. She has worked in all kinds of jobs, from admin to electro-plating and from DJ-ing to IT management. She didn't always plan to become a full-time novelist but can't remember a time in her adult life when she wasn't carrying a notebook and pen and jotting down ideas. One day an idea grabbed her so strongly that she decided to tackle a full-length novel.  Alison had moved to the Cambridge area in 1998 and decided to make it the backdrop for the books because of its unique mix of characteristics. It is a relatively small city but has a worldwide reputation for education and science. On its doorstep lie tiny and relatively primitive rural hamlets yet it has an airport and fast rail links into London. It is traditionally English but multi-ethnic, vastly wealthy in places but under privileged in others. Alison Bruce has also written two non-fiction books, Cambridgeshire Murders and The Billington, Victorian Executioner, both published by the History Press.

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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