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Thursday, 9 July 2020

‘A Knock at the Door’ by T W Ellis


Published by Sphere,
9 July 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-7593-4

The first thing to bear in mind when you start to read this book is Believe nothing, and trust no one. Especially the second. There’s a surprise up the sleeve of every character, good and bad – and it’s often impossible to tell the difference.

Picture the ordinary domestic scene. The kitchen of a young couple’s home in rural America. Jem and Leo. She is cooking up a delicious breakfast from perfectly ripe avocado and home-grown tomatoes; he is preparing for a business trip, chasing himself in circles looking for keys, phone, briefcase, late for his flight. There’s a hint that a cloud hangs over their apparently blissful relationship, but all seems to be well when he leaves.

Then, minutes after he’s out of the door, someone knocks. Jem isn’t expecting anyone. She never is; they live in an isolated place, and she hardly knows anyone.

The visitors are from the FBI, and they have a tale to tell Jem about Leo that doesn’t fit with anything she knows about him. In the middle of it all the phone rings. And that’s when it starts to get really complicated.

The man on the phone tells Jem to run, and she does. From then on the story lurches from one twist to the next. There are chases, by car and on foot; the local police chief gets involved; there’s a murder, the first of several; Jem falls in with Trevor, an elderly man who lives in a remote cabin. And just when you think everything is resolved, there’s the mother and father of a twist that will make you wonder whether you can even believe in yourself.

As if the plot to end all plots wasn’t enough, T W Ellis has also created a cast of characters who could leap off the page and start dancing without surprising you any more than they already do. Jem suffers from chronic anxiety; Trevor stopped trusting anyone in authority long ago; Rusty the police chief has a coffee habit and a secret she would prefer to keep. Leo is absent for much of the book, but still a distinct personality. The FBI guys, or not as the case may be, have little quirks of their own, but I wouldn’t tangle with them if I were you.

It’s one of those books in which everything happens at breakneck speed. The only respite from the breathless action is an occasional wander into Rusty’s viewpoint; she’s the kind of cop who likes to stand back and take stock once in a while. But even she has to move fast when things get going. I recommend you put a few hours aside before you start reading. Because once you start, you won’t want to stop.
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Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

T.W. Ellis is a pseudonym for Tom Wood, a full-time writer born in Burton-on-Trent who now lives in London. After a stint as freelance editor and filmmaker, he completed his first novel, The Hunter, which was an instant bestseller and introduced readers to the antihero assassin Victor. The Victor novels have sold more than half-a-million copies, and Better Off Dead was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick. A Knock at the Door is his first psychological thriller.

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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