He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.
When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open and shut case. A standard issue female suicide.
But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.
Will you listen to them?
For a debut novel this is a powerful read, however not sure I would categorise it as a thriller, although it does have some shocking moments in it. But we know from the start that Katie Straw is dead, but was it suicide or was it murder?
The story is told in the then which is Katie, and the now which is multiple characters, the police investigating the death, and other women in a women’s shelter, tellingly some of their back stories, each one in the shelter for differing reasons, the different types of abuse, by men.
When we first meet Katie Straw in the then, the story shows us how she met Jamie, she is out with her group of friends she had known from uni, Jamie buys her a drink. She is sat with him and he comes across as nice guy. Despite her initially not finding him attractive, having seen someone else she finds more attractive, it seems odd that she remains with Jamie. She flirts with him, but he makes it clear he doesn’t think she is that type of girl, he wants to get to know her better. He walks her home. From then on the relationship develops. Katie’s mum has terminal cancer, her father had been an alcoholic and had died in a road traffic accident years earlier. It’s like he takes away her mind, he takes control of her will.
When Katie’s body is dragged from the river near a popular suicide spot, police say its suicide. DS Whitworth is in charge of the investigation into Katie’s death, with his new young partner D.C. Brookes. Whitworth is old school, Brookes initially comes across a little more sympathetic at times than Whitworth. They dismiss this as a suicide, but still have to look into things. When visiting the place of Katie’s work a women’s refuge, they meet Valerie Redwood who runs the hostel. She is not impressed by the officers, warning them that the building is a men free zone, that this is a female only safe zone. When Whitworth states he believes Katie has taken her own life, Val says she wouldn’t have done that. As the Detectives interview the different women saying in the hostel, there is an insight to the different types of abuse the women have been through. At times it makes for a difficult read. It’s sad how some of the women have come to the stage they have. Some still believing they are in the wrong.
The then chapters, give the story of how Jamie was with Katie, how he was able to gradually manipulate, he didn’t hit her, he controlled her in different ways, after meeting her friends, he gradually made her believe they weren’t there for her, that they didn’t ask about how her mum was or help her, then isolating her from them. He was there for her, he was all she needed. She gradually bent to his will, her mum liked him, felt he was taking care of her.
The story is well thought out, highlighting the points of domestic abuse to some, but also at times there were a couple of mentions of there being nowhere for male victims of abuse to go to, that the statistics of male suicide from abuse is high, but they have no refuges or hostels.
This is a very character driven novel, telling the different stories, with a shocking revelation towards the end that I really did not see coming at all. I had assumed one thing and was totally thrown. Even the ending was a bit of a shock, I’m not sure if there is more to come. I found the male characters at times to be a bit misogynistic. Maybe that was just me.
If you have been a victim of abuse this could be a difficult read, I was abused in one way in my first marriage, and in a different way in my second, one part was very difficult for me to read as it was something that happened in my second marriage and was with Katie and Jamie, and I could do nothing about it. I went to a hostel at one stage, but it wasn’t a women’s hostel, there was a mixture of people there which made it uncomfortable for me and my teenage daughter, I was refused a women’s hostel because I had attempted to take my own life. So was seen as a danger to others, when in fact I was only a danger to myself, and it was because of what had been happening within my marriage.
Overall a good first novel, I will be interested to see what comes next, whether we will see Whitworth and Brookes again.
I give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.
I would like to thank #netgalley and #Viking for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest, fair and unbiased review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Moor studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University. Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.