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Monday 10 May 2021

‘The Imposter’ by Anna Wharton

Published by Mantle,
1st April 2021.  
ISBN: 978-1-5290-3739-5 (HB)

When a child goes missing, it’s not always just the parents whose lives are changed; sometimes complete strangers can be affected too.

Angie Kyle disappeared twenty-five years ago, when she was four – and Chloe, who works as an archivist at the local newspaper, has followed the story for several of those years; in fact, it’s fair to say she’s a little obsessed by it. The paper runs a new appeal for information at every significant anniversary, and as Chloe gathers each cutting and files it away, she feels that she knows both Angie and her parents. 

Having spent her early life in care, Chloe now lives with Nan, whose dementia is getting worse. One day Nan goes missing, and though she turns up unharmed, it’s plain Chloe can no longer cope, so Nan goes into care. Her house has to be sold, leaving Chloe in need of somewhere to live – and quite by chance, she finds that Angie’s parents are looking for a lodger. Chloe tells herself that their house might contain clues to Angie’s fate, and she might succeed where the police had failed...

Chloe’s story is set mainly against the flat, big-sky East Anglian landscape, which the author brings to life largely through long bus journeys. The characters, too, are vividly portrayed. Maureen Kyle, little Angie’s bereft mother, is nurturing and fragile by turns; her husband Patrick is wary and a little secretive. Chloe’s friend Hollie is bubbly and optimistic; her boss at the newspaper is dour and unsympathetic.

The early chapters present a painful and all too vivid picture of what it is to live with someone with dementia. Between burnt kettles, lost keys, and lightning-fast changes of mood and perspective, Chloe never knows what she will face when she returns from work.

As mystery novels go, The Imposter is far from typical. There’s no conventional bad guy, no investigation into a crime; rather, it’s a provocative mix of psychological thriller and examination of a damaged mind though a downward spiral of secrets, lies and self-deception. No one is quite what they seem; no one tells the whole truth; nothing is as it appears on the surface. And although there’s a solution to the central mystery, even the ending is certainly no neat, all-wrapped-up conclusion. It’s convoluted and intriguing, and above all it keeps you guessing. If you look for something a little different in your mystery fiction, look no further.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Anna Wharton has been a print and broadcast journalist for more than twenty years, writing for newspapers including The Times, Guardian, Sunday Times Magazine, Grazia and Red. She was formally an executive editor at The Daily Mail. Anna has ghost written four memoirs including the Sunday Times bestseller Somebody I Used To Know and Orwell Prize longlisted CUT: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today. The Imposter 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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction. 

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