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Saturday, 1 January 2022

‘The Couple On Maple Drive’ by Sam Carrington

Published by Avon,
9 December 2021.
ISBN 978-0-00843638-4 (PBO)

 “Someone wanted to hurt her, kill her, even, and the reason for that was in her subconscious.”

Isla McKenzie is walking home from a party to celebrate her promotion, when she is attacked by an unknown assailant who knocks her unconscious before stealing her phone and bag.  Her boyfriend, Zach Biggins, persuades her that he should move in with her to provide comfort and protection. 

Since the ordeal Isla has been unable to fully recall the events during the evening of the assault.  Too anxious to venture out of her house, Isla is nevertheless determined to understand why she had been chosen by the mugger.  She spends her days watching reruns of Murder She Wrote and listening to a podcast called Christie’s Crime Addict – True Crime Podcast.  Occasional flashbacks prove more disturbing than enlightening and she begins to mistrust her memories.  Her obsession with trying to recall the events that have so impacted on her life are creating tensions with Zach.  He, unrealistically, wants her to try to forget what has happened, whilst Isla is beginning to find his attentions more controlling than caring.  To make matters worse, Zach is her boss’s son, and the conflation of their professional and private lives puts more strain on their relationship. 

When the police seem unable to make any progress in Isla’s case and Zach refuses to engage with her desire to solve the crime, Isla seeks help elsewhere.  She contacts the True Crime Podcast production team, Christie, Doug, Jase and Ed who also offer a private detecting service.  The broadcasting sleuths are already aware of certain aspects of the crime and can offer a different perspective on the events.  The consensus is that Isla’s attacker was known to her, and as partial memories are triggered, Isla herself narrows down the suspects.  Of course, the closer she gets to the truth, the more nervous the perpetrator becomes.  As her memory gradually returns, Isla’s still unidentified foe plans another surprise for her – one from which there will be no escape.

The novel is skilfully constructed using the podcast scripts and Isla’s flashbacks as discrete chapters that punctuate the main narrative.  This structure allows the author to move forward and backward in time, revealing unexpected facts that surprise the reader as the story progresses.  In many ways this mirrors what Isla is experiencing and so creates empathy with the central character.  The plot feels fresh and gathers momentum before it resolves into a surprising and satisfying ending.

The Couple on Maple Drive is an exciting and engaging psychological thriller.  Themes of love, trust and friendship underpin the book’s exploration of fractured memories following trauma.  Highly recommended.
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Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Sam Carrington worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. Saving Sophie was her debut psychological thriller novel. She lives in Devon with her husband and three children.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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