What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you?
When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.
But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret.
A secret she thought no one else knew…
I’m delighted today to take my turn on the two week long blog tour for Disclaimer by Renee Knight: this intriguing new thriller was published by Doubleday on 9th April, in hardcover and for kindle.
If you’re any kind of fan of psychological thrillers, you really would need to have been living down a hole for the last few months not to have come across the media buzz around this book. If you read her interview in the Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, you’ll know this is a debut novel from a 55 year old mother of teenagers who writes in a shed, that she received a “mid six figure” advance for a two book deal with her British publishers, that it’s already been optioned by a Hollywood studio and she’s writing the script. You’ll also have noticed (yawn!) that it’s being hailed as “the new Gone Girl” – as it seems is every new book that fits somewhere into the “domestic noir” category, has less than likeable characters or any kind of twist.
The story’s premise is thoroughly ingenious and highly original. Catherine – a successful film producer – and husband Robert have recently downsized to a new property and, after the move, she finds a book called Perfect Stranger on her bedside table. The standard disclaimer – any resemblance to persons living or dead – has been crossed out in red pen. With mounting horror, she reads the book and realises it is a detailed account of an event which took place twenty years earlier: she had successfully kept it a secret from everyone and, if revealed, could destroy her comfortable life. Her son Nicholas – a very troubled young man – has already read the book, but failed to recognise his involvement in the closely guarded secret.
A fascinating premise, but I must be honest and say I was less happy with how the premise was handled. I found every character in this book thoroughly unlikeable – not a problem in itself, and it didn’t lessen my interest in finding out both who wrote the book revealing the secret, and discovering more detail about the event itself. The structure of the novel is very clever, written in two distinct voices – and it’s some way into the book before we understand the relationship between the eccentric old man, Stephen Brigstocke, mourning the death of his wife, and the other voice which is Catherine. I liked the way that the story was gradually revealed – the slow dripping of more and more information, until you think you’re beginning to understand what’s going on. Except, of course, the story and the secret aren’t what you think they are at all.
The book is well written, very tense and atmospheric at times – and the secret, when revealed, really wasn’t what I expected at all, but totally consistent with what went before. I just felt it took rather too long to get there, and I found my attention drifting – and I particularly felt the whole book could have finished 50 pages before it did, everything having been resolved but being repeatedly re-examined.
Overall, this is a cleverly constructed thriller, based upon a highly inventive idea, very different and not at all what I expected. I didn’t like everything about it, but I’m sure it will translate to the screen very well. I look forward to seeing how Renee Knight follows it up.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Doubleday for my advance reading e-copy.
|Copyright Colin Hutton|
Renee Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries before turning to writing. She has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four and Capital Films. In April 2013 she graduated from the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She lives in London with her husband and two children.