Friday, 27 May 2016

Dear Amy - Helen Callaghan - outstanding psychological debut thriller

My thoughts

This is a truly outstanding debut novel – a tense and intriguing psychological thriller with twists galore, shocks a-plenty and exceptional characters. It reminded me somewhat of "Before I go to sleep" by S J Watson, as nothing is really quite what you expect it to be and some people aren’t what or who they at first appear to be.

Margot is a classics teacher by day and her alter-ego is agony Aunt Amy for her local paper where she writes a column giving advice to people with worries and problems, she’s an understanding person who can relate well to people, and she’s had her own share of problems to draw on, for starters, she is unable to have children and her marriage has failed plus her younger years left a lot to be desired.

So, when amongst her regular pile of letters asking for relationship advice, is a letter from a missing girl begging to be rescued she feels she can’t ignore it, especially as since then, another teenager, one of Amy’s pupils, Katie, has recently gone missing in similar circumstances. She is keen to help, despite her misgivings and other peoples concerns that she is being played for a fool – after all the letter purports to be from Bethan Avery and she disappeared almost 20 years ago.

But Margot/Amy is convinced there is some truth behind the letters which keep arriving, previously unrevealed information is given in them and she enlists the help of Martin a criminologist with an interest in handwriting analysis who soon agrees that these letters must have been written by the real Bethan.

Occasional chapters are written from the point of view of Katie, held captive in the same dank cellar which once held Bethan, by the same unhinged kidnapper. Some pretty unsavoury things happen there but she never gives up hope that someone will find her or she will somehow manage to make a break and free herself. Scary, tension building stuff!

Why has Bethan waited until now to communicate and what made her choose Amy to send her pleas to? All this and much more is revealed before the riveting climax.

As the story unfolds we get to know Margot herself and realise that life has left its mark on her, she helps others because she's been in the position of needing help herself. Little wonder she can be a little flaky from time to time. We are treated to a little romance and relationship drama, but overall this is pure psychological twistiness from start to finish. It’s not just about solving the crimes it’s about the characters, what lies behind every action and what shapes us and makes us what we become.

A terrific read I was completely impressed with from start to finish. My copy was provided free of charge by Netgalley via the wonderful publisher Michael Joseph at Penguin Random House and can be pre-ordered now prior to its release on 16th June. I recommend you grab a copy if you enjoy books which make you think, as well as scare you and make you shudder.

The Blurb

Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters - but none like the one she's just received:
Dear Amy,
I don't know where I am. I've been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I'm afraid he'll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery
Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything

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