One of the things I love about crime fiction is its ability to take me by surprise. Every so often I pick up a book without any real expectations of how it will turn out, and before I know it it's 1am and I have a major sleep deprivation problem looming.
So it was with Wink Murder, Ali Knight's debut thriller which is published by Hodder in the UK next week. This is a genuinely creepy book, in which Knight probes away at those fears and anxieties that I am sure most of us suffer from but very rarely discuss.
Kate Forman seems to have life sorted. She has a couple of great kids, a beautiful home that she loves and a strong marriage to a highly successful man that she adores. But one night her husband comes home late from work drunk, distressed, incomprehensible and covered in blood. Shortly after a glamorous colleague of his is found dead and very quickly discovers how fragile and vulnerable a comfortable, happy life can ben.
Kate is caught between desperately wanting the whole thing to go away - and she fights her husband's corner to achieve that - and the nagging and destructive sense of suspicion and paranoia that has her poking around in her husband's life, looking for secrets that can only ever cause her pain and sorrow.
The novel has been likened to those of Sophie Hannah and Nicci French - neither of whom I have ever read - but the writers that came to my mind were Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay, whose specialty is tales of ordinary people trying to deal with extraordinary events.Where, crucially, Knight's story differs is in the character of the protagonists. Where Coben and Barclay heroes typically deal with their new situation with a stoic strength and determination, Kate Forman shows a panicky, jealous, suspicious side that probably better reflects how most "ordinary" folk would deal with such an occurrence.
Has her husband been cheating on her? Is his business honest? How far would she go to protect her comfortable life and her perfect family? Kate tears herself apart trying to find the answers to these questions. And her increasing desperation, diminishing self-belief and narrowing options makes for an incredibly uncomfortable and claustrophobic read, but one which I could not stop reading.
I picked up Wink Murder from the mountainous to-be-read pile because it came with a book mark outlining the rules of a parlour game called Wink Murder, which I thought was kind of interesting (and which provides a fascinating vignette in the story). What I expected, I don't really recall. What I got was a clever and compelling read that managed to open every last buried anxiety and personal paranoid fantasy and stir them up for a few hours.
Wink Murder is a cracking read, and well worth the price of a sleepless night!