What the blurb says: “How would it feel if you came across yourself in a book? It is unmistakably you. Worse, it is about something you have never told anyone – anyone living, that is.
When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read. On opening The Perfect Stranger by E.J. Preston, she is horrified to read an account of a day from twenty years ago she’s chosen to forget. Desperate for answers as to who the author is and what they want, she ploughs through the novel, until she reaches the end: the author’s portrayal of Catherine’s death.
Catherine has never met Stephen. But Stephen knows all about Catherine, including the details of her most closely guarded secret, unknown to her husband and son. Now that Stephen has found her secret, he is going to carefully and deliberately expose both it and her, exactly the ultimate revenge.”
At the moment ‘the big twist’ is hugely popular in psychological thrillers. You know, that moment where the reader turns the page and says ‘Oh my God, I never saw that coming – now everything’s changed’? Well, this book has so many ‘oh my God’ moments that I lost count!
Catherine isn’t so much an unreliable narrator as a secretive narrator. She knows the truth about what happened – it’s been festering in her mind, gnawing away at her for the last twenty years – but she still can’t bring herself to think about the details, and make herself relive the horror, of what occurred. So her side of the story remains a mystery to the reader for much of the book.
She hides what’s going on from her husband. As the stress and fear take hold, her life – work, family, self-perception – starts to fall apart, but she still won’t, can’t, tell those important to her the truth. It’s both heart-breaking and maddening (you want her to tell them, to tell you!) – and it makes for an utterly gripping narrative.
And while Catherine’s life comes apart, Stephen’s life is looking up. His plan is working, and he’s feeling more alive, more connected, to his wife, than he has done in many years. He begins to hope that maybe, finally, he’ll have succeeded in claiming some sort of justice.
Both lead characters are compelling and captivating in equal measure. Nuanced and flawed, and utterly real, they make bad choices, have regrets, and struggle to cope with the guilt they carry with them from the past.
I loved the quirky, up-close style of the narrative, and the shifts between past and present tense that really added to the feeling of what happened ‘then’ and what was happening ‘now’.
When I finished this book I sat looking at the cover and thinking about the story. ‘Wow’, I thought. Really, WOW! It is that good.
A heart wrenching, beautifully written and perfectly paced psychological thriller – with big twist after big, jaw-dropping twist – DISCLAIMER is one of my top ‘must reads’ of 2015 so far.
[with thanks to Transworld for my copy of DISCLAIMER]