Date Published22 August 2019
Price£ 8.99


by Catherine Ryan Howard

Andrew watches the woman’s savage murder in one of his holiday cottages, but he tells no one.


Play: Andrew, manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, is a seedy voyeur. Tonight, Natalie, a celebrity internet influencer and rising Instagram star, is his unsuspecting victim. But as he watches her through a hidden camera in her room, someone stabs Natalie then destroys the camera. The camera he believed no one knew about.

Pause: Natalie feels ill at ease. Shanamore is isolated. The weather is wild and claustrophobic in equal measures. And creepy Andrew is not appeasing her concerns. But she can’t leave the unwelcoming holiday cottage until she’s found evidence of her husband’s infidelity. And she finds it - a poetry book with a dedication inside, 'For my M,' in Natalie's handwriting that should not be there, miles from their home in Dublin. Natalie has never been to the remote Irish coastal resort, and her husband Mike denies ever setting his foot in the place. But his denial doesn’t tally with his credit card statement or a receipt Natalie found in their letter box.

Now rewind.

This story is told from several points of view, but fortunately the characters are distinct. And they become more so as the author discreetly fleshes them out. This is just as well, because the narrative is anything but linear, with a plethora of flashbacks under the name of rewind as well as pauses and fast-forwards. While these non-linear scenes explain much, including the raisons d'être behind the main characters’ behaviour and choices, and the author glues the story together with dexterity, the constant time-warping makes the reader concentrate for the wrong reasons.

Whilst there are few likeable characters, they are recognisable and utterly believable. And one could almost say they provide an accurate if disturbing insight to a world where anyone over the age of 35 is little more than a tourist. Moreover, its inclusion of careers such as online voyeuristic journalism and being an Instagram influencer remind this reader why social media could be the death of humanity.

The story also tweaks the curtains back a little on Irish life through its characters after the downturn of its economy. For example, there’s Audrey, a graduate who is struggling to keep her miserably paid job in the entertainment section of an online paper. Carla, Natalie's best friend, feels left behind and bitter towards people who found their social media niche and are cashing on it. The result is a story that is bang up to date.

There are parallels with a sprinkling of iconic films, including Psycho. The author’s ability to create tension and atmosphere with strong images highlights these likenesses. I felt as if I had followed the various ‘visitors’ to Shanamore. It is not somewhere I will go on my next visit to Ireland.

Sadly, the reveal is hurried and almost entirely in tell mode, which lets the book down somewhat, but not enough to spoil a good whodunit-whydunit murder mystery with virtually no gore for more sensitive readers. Although the twists are not gasp-worthy, this book has a clever plot, nasty characters, hidden agendas, and a horrid holiday destination on the edge of a one-horse-one-cop town. This is an excellent mix and is cleverly brought together at the hands of a sharp author.

Reviewed 11 April 2020 by Kati Barr-Taylor

Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.