This book was my introduction to Linda Barnes and a bit of a revelation. To say this story is a bit of a slow burner would be a gross understatement. The story, told by Em as if she is talking to Teddy – or since he is dead by the time the story starts, his ghost – seems to be about a young and very insecure woman living an almost agoraphobic life, slowly coming out of her shell. And, since this is something she needs to do if she wants to make sure her future as a biographer doesn’t die with her partner, her venturing out into the scary world makes perfect sense. Her transformation from virtual hermit to almost “normal” young woman may seem a bit fast at times, but then she is tied to a deadline, so that makes sense as well.
There is a lot more to this story than the smooth telling of it seems to suggest though. Under the surface there is a tension that is hard to understand. The reader knows there is something not quite right with at least some of the characters in this story, but what that something may be and exactly who can’t be trusted is never clear. The reader may have their suspicions but they may well prove completely wrong by the time the book ends. Cleverly plotted and very well told this book managed to take me completely by surprise. I had not seen the revelations coming at all and that is something I love in a good thriller. On the other hand, the suspense in most of this story was a bit too covert for my liking. It really didn’t read like a thriller until the latter part of the story. Not that I disliked the earlier parts; they were fascinating but not in a thriller sort of way. It is almost as if I started reading one book – the story of a young woman finding her way in the world – to be thrown into another.
I did enjoy the references to and from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the links with that play. I can’t help wondering though if I would have gotten more out of this book if I had been better acquainted with that work. Since I’ve never read Hamlet and only know the basic story-line that is a question that will have to be answered by other reviewers.
Having said all that, I did like this book a lot. Em’s voice and story captured me from the very first page and the further I got into the story the more hooked I became. The extent to which the last few chapters of this book managed to surprise me only proofs how accomplished an author Linda Barnes is. There are times when I think that by now I must have read it all, only for a book like this to come along and show me that original and surprising stories are indeed still being written.