Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: "He Said/She Said" by Erin Kelly

Now that's the way you do a thriller.

Kit and Laura are young and newly in love in the summer of 1999. Kit, who has been chasing solar eclipses since his childhood, convinces Laura to join him on a trek to Cornwall for a festival, during which they're expected to see a total eclipse of the sun. While the weather doesn't quite cooperate to give them the full eclipse experience, it still wows Laura, as she truly understands why Kit finds these events so mesmerizing, and loves being able to share them with the man she loves.

Walking back to their campsite after the eclipse, Laura comes upon a man and a woman. At first she doesn't understand what she's seeing, but then she realizes that the man appears to be taking advantage of the woman. She, then Kit, intervenes, the woman is dazed, the man is angry and protests his innocence. Once the authorities take over, the peace of the event is shattered for Kit and Laura, knowing they may find themselves part of a trial in the future.

After the case is over, the woman gets in touch with Laura to express her gratitude for their help. As the woman becomes needier and needier, both Laura and Kit have concerns, but how can Laura turn a woman away who has had her whole life turned upside down, even been betrayed by those she considered friends? Little by little, Laura starts feeling unsure that she made the right decisions—did she actually see what she thinks she saw? Is the victim as innocent as she appeared?

"...that's the thing with secrets. They're leaky; you can't decide to share the bits that suit you without a million questions oozing out. You have to solder a part of yourself shut."

Fifteen years later, Kit and Laura have changed their names and live almost in hiding, off the physical and virtual grid. Every move they make is one made cautiously, and both live in fear that everything they've built can be destroyed in a moment. But while they share the same fears, they also have vastly different things they are afraid of, things which have caused Laura nearly paralyzing anxiety and have strained their marriage.

"There is so much unshared life to intrude upon the marriage; so much opposing history. The defining event of my life is the defining event of Laura's. I don't know how couples who haven't been through something like that stick together."

With so much at stake, they know their fears will catch up with them. And when they do, will they—and their marriage—be able to survive?

He Said/She Said seems like a pretty basic thriller at first, but Erin Kelly's storytelling keeps you hooked. If you read thrillers, or even watch crime-type shows on television, you've seen this story before, and you have a feeling what will happen. At least you think you have. But Kelly never rests on plot-as-usual; she stretches everything to the limit, so just as some of the things you expect to happen do, the next second you're shocked by what else unfolds.

The book may get a little more melodramatic than it needs to at times, and because certain aspects of the story take a while to unfold, I found myself confused by the behavior of some of the characters. But this was a really well-written book, and Kelly kept me hooked from start to finish. While I could have passed on the jet-lag-induced insomnia, I didn't mind passing the time devouring the remainder of this book.

I've only read one of Kelly's previous books, The Poison Tree, and I remember enjoying that, too. While she's apparently referred to as "the queen of the killer twist," I think if you just let the story unfold as Kelly intended it, and don't keep focusing on the twist, you'll be able to concentrate on all of the things that made this a great thriller.

NetGalley and St. Martin's Press provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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