Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Dear Amy

Summary: In Helen Callaghan’s chilling, tightly-spun debut novel of psychological suspense, a teenage girl’s abduction stirs dark memories of a twenty-year-old cold case...

Margot Lewis is a teacher at an exclusive high school in the English university town of Cambridge. In her spare time, she writes an advice column, “Dear Amy”, for the local newspaper.

When one of Margot’s students, fifteen-year-old Katie, disappears, the school and the town fear the worst. And then Margot gets a “Dear Amy” letter unlike any of the ones she’s received before. It’s a desperate plea for rescue from a girl who says she is being held captive and in terrible danger—a girl called Bethan Avery, who was abducted from the local area twenty years ago…and never found.

The letter matches a sample of Bethan’s handwriting that the police have kept on file since she vanished, and this shocking development in an infamous cold case catches the attention of criminologist Martin Forrester, who has been trying to find out what happened to her all those years ago. Spurred on by her concern for both Katie and the mysterious Bethan, Margot sets out—with Martin’s help—to discover if the two cases are connected.

But then Margot herself becomes a target. -- Harper

DEAR AMY by Helen Callaghan sounded like just the kind of book I enjoy. A psychological suspense novel that linked a current kid napping with a twenty year old one. However, I just didn't "feel" it like I had hoped. I don't know if it's that I'm distracted by holiday planning right now and just not in the mood for reading, or whether the novel DEAR AMY wasn't just my cup of tea. Regardless, I thought this book was just okay.

DEAR AMY tells the story of Margot Lewis, a teacher at a fancy high school in Cambridge as well as the advice columnist for the local newspaper. When Katie, one of her students mysteriously disappears one day, people fear the worse. And then, things get even stranger in this town when Margot receives a "Dear Amy" letter. This letter is from Bethan Avery, a girl for was kidnapped twenty years ago and still hasn't been found.

Margot wonders if this letter is some kind of hoax, but when the local police tie the handwriting to Bethan, Margot can't help but become involved with the case. She hopes she can help save not only Bethan but also Katie. With the help of the criminologist Martin Forrester, Margot tries to figure out if these two cases are connected and she can save the girls before the kidnapper acts again!

As I mentioned earlier, DEAR AMY wasn't my favorite thriller, but it could be that I'm just not in the mood for reading right now. I do think the author had a strong storyline and there were times when I really enjoyed the writing and tension that she created; however, that was offset by a few things -- namely, the use of an unreliable narrator.

If you are a regular reader of Booking Mama, then you know that I am a bit tired by unreliable narrators after the huge success of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. I enjoy it... if it's done well, but there are times when I feel manipulated by this storytelling technique. In the case of DEAR AMY, I felt manipulated.

In addition to my issues with the narrator, I also figured out the major twist in the story before I was even halfway through. Believe me, I don't think I'm particularly astute, but I definitely could see where the story was going to go. I'm not sure I can really say much more than that without giving away a few spoilers. Let's just say that as the narrator became more and more unhinged, I began to question everything about her (as I'm sure was the author's intent), but I also knew what was going to happen to her.

As I reflect back on this review and the book, I'm concerned that my words sound much harsher than I intended. DEAR AMY isn't a bad book or one without merit. Instead, it just wasn't one of my favorites in this genre. There are definitely some readers that will appreciate this novel, and I recommend it to fans of stories with unreliable narrators and surprise endings.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Bummer, I had high hopes for that book.