They say that you should write about what you know best – so it’s no surprise that a psychologist with experience in the police and military forces should choose to write a psychological crime thriller. Emma Kavanagh’s debut is gripping and enticing, drawing you into the worlds of four different characters, each with a story to tell.
The crime/detective/thriller genres are not usually my scene, but that’s the beauty of getting to review a new book: it opens you up to things you wouldn’t have touched before. And I’m very glad I touched this. It is immensely readable – and by ‘readable’, I’m thinking of it being 1am, and you’re holding your eyes wide open with your fingers, willing yourself to focus on the page before you, because you cannot physically put this book down, even though you’ll be up again in six hours and shattered is not even the word.
What makes this book so readable is that it is about people. Yes there is a plane crash, and a murder, and questions about how each of them happened, and whether they are linked. But, mainly, the book is about Cecilia, a thirty-ish-old air stewardess, pushed into marriage and motherhood too soon; Jim, a retired police officer, grieving for his murdered daughter; Freya, the eldest child within a dysfunctional family; Tom, a police office investigating a murder whilst more-or-less playing single dad to his nearly-three-year-old, as his mother struggles to cope with her role.
I particularly enjoyed Kavanagh’s distinctive writing style and use of flashback. Each chapter is headed with the character from whose point of view the words are written, followed by a specific date and time. This accurate, precise approach is highly suitable to a book set largely in police stations and crime scenes. Within the chapter, there are then flashbacks to the previous day, or week, or even earlier the same day. If you’re going to be specific about date/time, why not just write as the action is happening? Because writing about it later, even just a few hours later, gives the character time to reflect and process the events. It makes for a fascinating read, partly because often the flashback and real time are interspersed paragraph by paragraph, but also because you’re seeing how the past is affecting the present, and how the present will affect the future. I’ll be honest, this approach led to a bit of confusion in an early chapter, when I had to backtrack a few pages to check when things had happened, but I soon got into the swing of it, and loved the way past and present interacted.
It goes without saying that a book about people, about how their minds work, how their lives have been shaped, will give you sympathy for pretty much every one of the characters, as you get to know their complexities, their grey areas. Each one has been so carefully developed that there is no room for black and white judgements. There was only one person I had no sympathy for – I’ll leave you to read the book for yourself and guess which one that was…although I’ll tell you now it wasn’t the murderer!
As a relentless ‘happy-ender’, I guess I would have liked a tighter, ‘…and they all lived happily ever after’ type finish to the book. But this wouldn’t have made good literature, just a happy desertmum. The book closes with the main ends tied up, hope for a changed future for the main characters, and a sense that, really, this novel has just been a two-week snapshot into a few people’s lives, albeit an eventful two weeks.
I loved this book, and would recommend to all – but especially if you don’t think you’d like it…
(Disclaimer: this is a review for Mumsnet, on behalf of Arrow Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy of ‘Falling’ free of charge. I received no payment for the review, and all views are my own.)