Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Book Review - "Dear Amy" by Helen Callaghan.

I received a copy of this title, from the publishers, in return for an honest review...

School teacher, Margot, freelances as a newspaper agony aunt and receives some disturbing mail:

Dear Amy,
Please please PLEASE help me!  I have been kidnapped by a stange man and he's holding me prisoner in this cellar.  He says I can never go home. I don't know where I am or what to do and nobody knows I'm here.
I don't even know how long I've been gone,but it seems like forever.  I'm afraid that people will stop looking for me.  I'm afraid he'll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery.

Hand written, in childish scrawl, Margot fears that the letter may be genuine.  Another school girl is missing and she fears for her safety.  She passes on the letter to the police and discovers there was indeed a missing girl called Bethan Avery, but back in the 1990s.  How is the recent disappearance of a schoolgirl related to this old case?  Why is Margot receiving letters?  How can she find a girl who has been missing for almost twenty years?  With the help of Martin Forrester, a criminologist with Cambridge University, she delves farther in the past in an attempt to understand the present.

This is one of the most twisty, turny novels I have read in a long time.  From the first chapter, the author take the reader into veritable carnival-like attraction of distorted mirrors, hidden corridors and cloak draped stages.  The letters received are heart-breaking yet confusing.  How is the missing girl able to post them, yet not know where she is? Why has she chosen an agony aunt as her saviour?  Does she read newspapers?  Will a TV appeal help?  Margot is already feeling pressure from her broken marriage and her vulnerability is now exposed even more.  Turning each page brings more questions and before you know it, you are hurtling towards the final chapter.

Helen Callaghan is an example of how returning to education can inspire a person to follow a dream.  Studying as a mature student can shed a different light on a persons interests and talents; sometimes resulting in a new career; a new outlook on life and, in this case, a sharp, cunning debut novel.  Callaghan's writing is pacy, vibrant and fresh.  The narrative is strong and the page-turning factor is high.  There are many, many crime writers out there who should look over their shoulders at this new novelist.  Part thriller, part psychological drama, this cries out for a TV three-part drama.  There are tastes of the writings of Ruth Rendell and Erin Kelly in here, as well as some similarities to  recent televised dramas like Sky One's The Five and BBC4's Thirteen.   This is a debut of note.  Just don't expect to get much done once you start.  It's one you won't  put down easily.     

Dear Amy is published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 16th June in HB and ebook format.

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