reviewed by Lou Jacobs
A “Dare” always seems to lead to another and proves pivotal in this riveting and immersive suspenseful tale full of twists throwing everyone’s motives into question. It seems all the characters are flawed and guilty of something.
Lizzie Molyneux seems finally, at age twenty-five, to have everything falling into place. She’s engaged to handsome and delightful Ross Murray, who happens to be a well-respected GP with a booming practice in London. She finds herself unexpectedly pregnant but overjoyed when she is tasked with preparations for a housewarming party. Ross has invited all his colleagues from the practice. The doorbell rings and her life comes crashing down as she opens the door to her past. Catherine Dawson is front and center… and conjuring up the events that have haunted her since she was a thirteen-year-old. Apparently, Catherine is the “new” nurse and also the older sister of her best friend Alice. She insists she has come to terms with Alice’s death and harbors no ill feelings. (In fact, Lizzie eventually finds herself becoming friends with Catherine.)
Lizzie and Alice were best of friends, the kind that told each other everything—they had no secrets. Their favorite pastime was taking “The Walk” along their favorite route that took two hours and left plenty of time for them to discuss everything going on in their lives. Their route culminated in them coming upon an open railroad crossing. “We always waited until we heard the tracks singing, and counted the seconds till the train hurtled by” Lizzie sensed that Alice was withholding a secret. They both became agitated and started hurling insults. Internally Lizzie imagined that Alice was harboring a secret regarding a boy that she liked. “I hate her because she isn’t telling me something. I hate her because she’s pretty and doesn’t wear glasses and have frizzy red hair and epilepsy. I hate her so much I can hardly breathe.”
Lizzie describes having the aura of a typical seizure. Next she finds herself confused, dazed and sitting in a puddle of pee with the train stopped nearby. She wonders “Where’s Alice?” looks up and notes a sleeve of the denim jacket that Alice was wearing. But then to her horror realizes that it contains part of an arm. Afterwards, she recalls being questioned, and stating: “I don’t know. I can’t remember.” Alice’s school friends and family, especially her older sister Catherine blame Lizzie, certain that she pushed her onto the tracks of the oncoming train.
Even twelve years later, when another tragic train accident occurs involving a young victim hits the daily news. It awakens all the fragmentary and nightmarish memories involving Alice. The nightmare intensifies when her parents visit, lugging a box of “her stuff” from the attic, that will dredge up memories of the past.
Kara accomplishes a writer’s dream by providing a complex twisted narrative that grabs the reader by the throat from the opening pages and doesn’t let go. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen. It doesn’t. All the richly fleshed out characters’ motives are questionable. There are multiple unexpected reveals that tease the reader. Can you really guess where the “breadcrumbs” will lead? The pages fly by in this captivating and addictive read. The story is told in several timelines: Now (2019) and Then (2007), but also Before and After (referring to Alice’s death). And mysteriously intermingled in Italics are passages from unidentifiable protagonists with darker and nefarious motivations.
Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books / Random House Publishing Group for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. Anticipated publishing date is August 3, 2021.