He Said She Said by Erin Kelley - Book Review
Over on Goodreads, there appears a trend for defining books of this genre as "twist-lit". Think of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train in which a defining twist turns everything you had believed on it's head.
This is exactly what He Said She Said did for me. It is the thriller I have waited to read for a long, long time.
I came to read this quite by accident while browsing through ARCs on Netgalley. Featured among the "most requested titles" it was described as domestic noir: a novel featuring a central storyline of a brutal attack and it's aftermath for the two key witnesses. But it is so very much more than that. It is a tour-de-force of impending dread, a psychological joyride through the nuances of truth, trust and control.
The story is told through the eyes of the two central protagonists, Laura and her boyfriend Kit, They are students at first, helping to run a tea stall at a festival in Lizard Point in Devon at the time of the solar eclipse. In the aftermath of totality, Laura stumbles upon a brutal attack on a young woman, followed shortly by Kit. As witnesses, they are drawn into the court case - a case of "he said, she said" in terms of conviction, which lays claim to the novel's title.
Chapters alternate between the past (the eclipse, court case and aftermath) to the present day, and between the viewpoints of both Laura and Kit. This effect is seamless for the most part, though there were a few sections towards the end when I needed to turn back to remind myself "where" in the story I was reading.
A sense of dread pervades throughout this fantastically layered novel. Little by little, the characters' true personality and motivations are revealed. My sense of "the truth" was turned on it's head several times throughout this first reading, particularly around three-quarters of the way through when the major plot twist occurs. I had to read a particular sentence several times before the truth of it sank in. It was masterfully delivered!
One of the most enjoyable - and haunting - elements of He Said She Said is the exploration of dependency and abuse. The lines between these two traits of personality are deliberately blurred: none just for one or two characters, but for all of them. I also really liked the theme of "eclipse chasing", which was fantastically well-researched and added a huge depth to the story to inspire character motivations.
This is such a well-written novel, perfectly delivered and retrospectively haunting. I sincerely hope this received the attention and sales it deserves. In fact, I'm unsure I even want to read another thriller this year: He Said She Said was so good that I'm not sure any other twist-lit title could compare!
Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an advanced reading copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
He Said She Said by Erin Kelley will be published on 20th of April, 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton.
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on February 23rd, 2017.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (Very highly recommended!)