A dogwalker discovers the body of a young woman, strangled to death, in a park. Oddly, we are told this by Eve, the dead woman, herself – her ghostly narrative forming one of the voices in the book. The main focus of the book, however, is on Melody, a previous victim of the murderer, it is assumed. Melody lived, but has lost all but the vaguest memories of that night and so can’t identify her attacker. Six years on, she is still trying to get over the psychological effects of her experience, and this new attack brings all the original terror back to the surface for her. The third viewpoint is that of the detective in charge of both cases, DI Victoria Rutter, who starts out convinced that the man she put away for the first crime must be guilty of the second too. However, events soon cast doubt on that and both Melody and Victoria have to consider that the first verdict may have been wrong.
I hold my hands up – I abandoned this book not far past the halfway point, and flicked ahead to see whodunit. Not that I cared, except to feel a little sorry that he hadn’t managed to finish the job properly on Moaning Melody. But I seem to be in a tiny minority – the book is garnering 4 and 5 star reviews, so I wouldn’t let my reaction put you off.
It was always going to be a big ask for me to take a ghostly narrator seriously – it’s becoming another of these tediously clichéd bandwagons that crime fiction seems to create so often these days. But Eve revels in her tragedy, constantly telling us of how devastated her friends and family are – how broken and lost they are without her. OK, this would probably be a true reaction, but it really doesn’t sit well coming from the mouth of the dear departed. I fear I got the image in my head early on of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn attending their own funeral, and every time Eve told me gloatingly of how her mother was drowning in grief, it made me giggle. Not the intended reaction, I suspect.
Miserable Melody, on the other hand, plunged me into dismal depression every time she opened her mouth. In real life, I would hope to have a good deal of sympathy for a survivor of a dreadful attack, but in crime fiction I feel there ought to be a limit to how much time we are asked to devote to listening to a monotony of woe. At one point, she says she knows the people around her want her to move on and stop wallowing in the past, and I felt rather guilty since that was pretty much my own feeling. It seemed strange that the dead girl seemed so much cheerier about her lot than the live one. Melancholy Melody’s relationship with her soon-to-be husband seemed most odd too. Given that she was terminally depressed, more than a little obsessive, and absolutely no fun to spend time with – a thing acknowledged by both of them – I couldn’t help wondering why he wanted to marry her. That was more mysterious than the question of whodunit, actually.
I didn’t get any feel for DI Rutter’s character at all – perhaps she was developed more in the second half of the book. The writing is OK for the most part, but not special enough to make the pseudo-psychobabble bearable – for this reader anyway. Sometimes a book works for you, sometimes it doesn’t…
Here’s a link to Cleo’s 5-star review to provide a bit of balance . Thanks for the recommendation, Cleo… hope you forgive me… 😉
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Headline.