Sophie McKenzie hasn't strayed too far from the young adult style she's used to with this adult book that was an entertaining distraction but ultimately too ridiculous and unbelievable to deserve a higher rating. No one will see the twists coming because they are more than a little too "out there" to be believed. But it is entertaining. McKenzie knows how to create tension with every page and her cliffhanger chapter endings guarantee you won't be putting the book down any time soon. And the ending is suitably eerie, it tells us that this story may be over, but simultaneously gives life to the characters so we believe they carry on living after the last page.
The story is about Geniver Loxley who gave birth to a stillborn daughter eight years ago. Despite trying to throw herself into work, turn to friends and have another baby, Geniver remains haunted by the ghost of the little girl she lost. Then one day a woman arrives at her door. This woman's sister just passed away but, the woman claims, she made a strange and horrifying confession on her deathbed. While working as a nurse in the hospital, she witnessed the delivery of Geniver's healthy baby and was paid to keep quiet as it was whisked away and replaced with a stillborn. And even worse than all that, Art - Geniver's husband - was in on it.
Geniver angrily turns the woman away at first. But, as she goes home and thinks over everything that happened eight years ago, she begins to realise how many little things just don't quite add up. And suddenly she begins to wonder how well she knows the man she sleeps next to, whether her child could really be out there somewhere, and if perhaps she is simply losing her mind. This latter question becomes the central focus of the book and I love psychological mysteries that make you question the very sanity of the protagonist. Everyone thinks she's dealing badly with grief, even Geniver starts to wonder too, and so the reader also finds themselves questioning it.
Geniver's sadness, fear, anger and frustration over her loss, then her obsession with this new possibility, then the disbelief of her friends, is told in a very compelling way. This is one of those books that can make you feel a little suffocated inside the protagonist's head, but I mean that in the best way possible. It's easy to get so far into her life that you experience each emotion Geniver does. It's really a shame that the plot and twists of the mystery fail to deliver when I found the psychological aspect so appealing.
But the climax is laughable. The culprit is not so hard to guess in a book like this where there's not so many possibilities, but one of my favourite parts of mystery books is the "whys", not the "whos". And the "whys" here were far-fetched and unconvincing. There is no gradual build to it, you don't look back and see how that makes any sense, it feels like it flew in out of nowhere. It was the book's major flaw. There were other minor flaws too, like eyebrow-raising thoughts Geniver had. One that springs to mind is how she couldn't possibly believe Art was having an affair, she dismissed that immediately, but she could believe he was responsible for kidnapping their daughter and claiming she was dead. Okaaaaay.
I would have also liked this book to be a touch more adult. There was a tameness to it which reminded me constantly that McKenzie normally finds herself writing young adult books. McKenzie attempts a sex scene at one point and the best she can manage is a heated kiss before the fade to black. Not that I'm expecting erotica or anything, but it all felt a little too PG for the older audience McKenzie was targeting.