Having helped with the cover reveal back in September last year, it’s a real pleasure today to share my review of The Perfect Betrayal, the debut psychological thriller from Lauren North, to be published as an e-book by Transworld/Penguin on 14th March. It’s available for pre-order, as is the paperback which will follow at the end of June.
Lauren has a blog tour arranged with Anne of Random Things Tours which starts on Monday (I’ll share the banner below), but I didn’t sign up because I wasn’t sure if I could fit in the reading. But as I contemplated tackling the stairs with the hoover on Sunday, I decided there was something I’d really far rather do. I didn’t move for the rest of the afternoon – my goodness, this book was just wonderful.
My thanks to the publisher for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley – and while I’m doing my thank yous, many thanks to Lauren for mentioning me in the book’s acknowledgements, because it really made my day. Let’s take a closer look…
‘I thought she was our friend. I thought she was trying to help us.’
After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.
When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world.
But when questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?
I seem to have read a few psychological thrillers recently – and I’ll readily acknowledge that I might just be in danger of over-using the word “stunning”. I had fallen out of love with the genre a little – quite apart from finding thrillers so very difficult to review, I was beginning to find the story lines a little samey, with “jaw-dropping twists” that were disappointing me a little. If you’ve ever begun to feel the same, I’d urge you to try this one – a first psychological thriller from an author whose books I’ve previously enjoyed (but under another identity), and something so different and original that it rather took my breath away.
The story opens on the day after son Jamie’s birthday, and the reader finds out on the very first page that Tess is in hospital, has been stabbed, and that her son is missing. And then we go back to 55 days before that birthday, slowly approaching the critical date, the narrative punctuated by extracts from interviews and snippets from statements, all unexplained. It’s a compelling structure, as you become involved in all the twists and turns of Tess’ life, question what might have happened, and always with that ticking clock in the background.
The whole reading experience was so very unsettling, with the knowledge that something dreadful was going to happen – and when I reached the end, all I wanted to do was go back to the beginning, to make sense of how I could have got the whole story so entirely wrong.
It begins with a quite overwhelming depiction of loss and grief – quite wonderfully done, desperately moving – which lingers throughout as Tess focuses on motherhood and attempts to go through the motions of day-to-day life. She turns away from her family – her mother and her brother – but finds alternative support from grief counsellor Shelley, which turns into a close friendship.
But might it be too close? Tess begins to doubt whether Shelley with her ever-present smile is all that she seems, and her life becomes further complicated by the discovery that her husband had secrets. Coupled with her distinctly unpleasant brother-in-law bringing financial pressure, threatening phone calls, a stalker and an intruder, she reaches the point where she finds it unable to trust anyone – and as you read, you start to draw your own ever-changing conclusions.
The characters are superbly drawn – particularly Shelley, and you’ll find your views on her character constantly shifting, wondering about her motives, slowly growing to doubt whether her care for Tess can possibly be as selfless as it appears.
The tension in this book is cranked up to an almost unbearable level, laced with threat and menace – to give any clue where the story’s going would be entirely unforgivable, but I promise it won’t disappoint. I quite possibly forgot to breath beyond the halfway point – it’s immaculately plotted, so well written, totally impossible to put down until the bitter end… and quite wonderful.
And as promised, here are the details of the forthcoming tour – and I’m really looking forward to reading the reviews…
About the author
Lauren writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation. Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.