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Friday 22 May 2020

‘The Other You’ by J S Monroe

Published by Head of Zeus,
9 January 2020. 
ISBN: 978-1-78954167-0 (HB)

Imagine waking up one morning convinced that the person you’ve shared your life with for several months has been replaced by a doppelgänger, a double who resembles the person so closely that no one else can see it. That’s what happens to Kate. Her partner Rob is a wealthy tech-entrepreneur; he rescued her after a serious car accident, took care of her and helped her rebuild her life. But now she is far from sure that the Rob in the house with her is really Rob – and of course the last person she can confide in about her doubts and fears is Rob himself.

A head injury in the accident damaged Kate’s talent as a super-recognizer: someone with an extraordinary ability to remember and recognize faces after only the briefest of encounters. Before the car crash, she worked with the police, helping them with a major investigation into county lines drug trafficking and modern slavery. And now her someone has sent her ex-boyfriend Jake evidence that the crash may have been the result of a spiked drink in a pub involved in the case...

Just when you think you’ve seen every conceivable variation crime fiction plotlines have to offer, along comes a fresh twist. This one has a lot of familiar tropes: drugs, techno-crime, the world-weary detective with a dysfunctional family and a bright young sidekick. But it has something brand new too, at least to me.

It also has a cast of characters that live and breathe. Kate is normally free-spirited and feisty but made vulnerable by the accident. Rob is gentle and loving but also shadowy, with a life he doesn’t talk much about – and an apparent dread of the whole concept of doppelgängers. Then there’s Jake, Kate’s ex; he’s a little feckless, but still cares deeply for her, and fears her doubts about Rob may have some foundation. Her best friend Bex, down-to-earth and straightforward, is supportive, but doesn’t quite know what to think. And Silas, the old-school detective inspector Kate used to work with, is pretty sure something is going on that merits investigation but is hampered by his ambitious boss who favours new technology over people skills.

The settings come to vivid life too: mainly Cornwall, where Rob has built a beautiful hi-tech house, and also his sophisticated penthouse apartment in gentrified London, with occasional forays into Jake’s canal boat and Bex’s cosy cottage. 

When Kate’s life is threatened and she flees to London to see a psychiatrist who has been treating her since the accident, the tortuous, complex plot gathers pace. There are more familiar tropes – a motorway car chase, an apartment that turns into a prison – but all with a unique twist. Eventually the lead characters gather for a denouement that is as unexpected as the rest of this unusual and highly readable novel.

I challenge you to predict what is really going on!
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

J.S. Monroe After reading English at Cambridge University, he worked as a freelance journalist in London, writing features for most of Britain's national newspapers, as well as contributing regularly to BBC Radio 4. He was also chosen for Carlton TV's acclaimed screenwriters course. Between 1998 and 2000, he was Delhi correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and he also wrote the Last Word column in The Week Magazine (India) from 1995, when he lived in Cochin, South India, to 2012. His first novel, The Riot Act ,was  published by Serpent's Tail. Dead Spy Runnin', his third novel and the first in the Daniel Marchant (or 'Legoland') trilogy, was published by HarperCollins and has been translated into five languages. Jon lives in Wiltshire with his wife and three children.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction. 

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