How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

Good afternoon readers, it’s a rather blustery day in Stoke-on-Trent but it’s a happy one. I’ve been reading a lot of classics books for my 101 things in 1001 days classics challenge so it’s been nice to have a little change with today’s review which is a crime thriller. I get a lot of requests for fantasy books however I adore thriller and crime novels so to be sent one with such a lovely and thoughtful cover in terms of the story was wonderful and I cannot wait to bring you this review!

A woman is convicted and sent to a psychiatric hospital for killing her baby son, but on her release she is sent a photo of a young boy. Could this be her son or is she deluding herself into thinking he might still be alive?

From the first page I have to admit I was immediately pulled in by this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect despite the cover but I did know that I needed to read on and find out more. As the blurb suggests the book follows the utterly heart-breaking tale of a woman convicted of killing her own son. With a large amount of evidence pushing against her and spending a stint in prison she’s back in a safe new home, with a safe new name and a new life in front of her. Until she is sent a photograph of a young boy: could her darling son alive? Is the journalist really trying to help her or is he thinking of the cheque that will come from covering the story? Who could know her new address and of her new life? Is it a threat? This book will take you on a roller-coaster of a journey pulling you in and spitting you out as the very last page is turned. But is it worth a read? Read on to find out!

So, firstly don’t be worried that the book takes on a miserable subject line because it’s instead punchy, thrilling, finger biting, edge of your seat type writing that leaves no prisoners. The plot revolves around Susan Webster and I found her utterly compelling; she is blunt and bright and then suddenly utterly distraught, maternal and warm. Throughout her personality changes at the touch of a button and I personally thought that was very evocative of the plotline as a whole. From the beginning we are introduced to the idea that our main character has suffered from post-natal depression however our main character has no recollection of the crime whatsoever. This immediately sparked my imagination and my mind was saying what, why, how? It’s so important to get the reader invested and this really helped to stir my curiosity. What also continued this interest were the flashbacks to the late eighties which explores the friendships of a group of upper class teenage boys; boyish and excitable their raucous activities do not become prevalent until a lot later on in the book. I think what was equally really important was that the book continues to play on the mystery of did she, didn’t she all the way through. The clues that are given to us as a reader never quite distinguish what has or hasn’t happened and that helped to sustain me as a reader and pull me further into the book as a whole.

There are a few wobbles however; one of the characters in the book is Nick, the journalist that knocks on Susan’s door and introduces himself. She immediately trusts him despite the fact he is a reporter and her trial has already gained a large amount of media interest as she has left prison after a shortened sentence. It’s difficult to explain but there a few too many holes or too many jumps for the reader to make. Additionally, without giving to much away, as the two times begin to merge and we discover that activities that occurred in the 80’s are much more prevalent than originally thought a number of added characters are intertwined and it starts to get messy. There are nicknames, original names, characters from the past, from the future, it all gets a little muddled and then there are wives, families, and additional friends. There’s just a little too much going on and although I loved reading into it I found myself flicking back throughout and hoping there was a family tree or such to help me out a little. Even now I’m not quite sure what I read, or that I understood quite how everything fitted together just so. With a crime novel it doesn’t quite work because you want that sigh of relief at the end when it all comes together and becomes an understandable and wholly clear concept but here that didn’t happen and it’s a real shame. Additionally at times the writing style is messy; it is blunt and obnoxious in places where it needn’t be and then suddenly very poetic in other. It’s difficult to know whether the author knew what they were creating as an end product.

I think for me that a couple of tweaks it could have really rocked me as a reader; I could have fallen for this book wholly and completely but it left me wanting more. Additionally I think that although the introduction of more and more characters helped to leave the reader completely in the dark till the very end it also created a number of holes in the plotline. The writing although exciting and based on really interesting plotlines lacked maturity, it was at times messy and lacked focus. I think this author has real potential and despite a number of problems I really enjoyed it and found it a riveting read. I just wish the author had had the confidence to really cut down the characters and rely on their ability to spin the story as to make it both easier to follow and more engaging as a whole. A thriller with an interesting idea that didn’t quite deliver.

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