“My last year of high school, when Kaycee Mitchell and her friends got sick, my father had a bunch of theories.”
Barrens is a small town revitalised by the big company at its heart. Optimal provides not just employment, but scholarships, grants, and donations until it’s woven through the entire town like ivy. Or, like a cancer: perhaps literally, if the pending lawsuit against the company’s pollution is proven true.
Ten years ago, Abby Williams escaped from Barrens, and from high school bullies. Coming back to find evidence against Optimal, she soon finds herself unable to stop investigating the mystery of her teenage years, when several of her classmates faked illnesses – or, did they?
There was something dark and claustrophobic to this story, which rather appealed in the same vein as The Chalk Man: something that drew not just the character but also me back to teenage years and a love of creepy atmospheric reads, albeit mystery here rather than horror. And, of course, a hefty dose of curiosity about an actor turning their hand to writing – hmm!
Actually, I think Ms Ritter has done well here, although it is kind of hard not to visualise Jessica Jones as the cynical, damaged lead character. She’s written her next role, if she so wishes, I’m sure.
Overall, the story is pretty good, if not the most original in the world ever. There are a few attempts at twists and turns which sort of almost work, although get perhaps just a little muddy as the story gets to the end. And, while I rather enjoyed the journey, the destination (ie ending) could have been a little stronger, imo. Still, a pretty darn good debut and cautiously recommended for thriller fans.
NetGalley eARC: 368 pages / 44 chapters
First published: 2017
Read from 13th November 2017 – 28th March 2018 (after putting it down after the first 10% and getting very distracted…!)
My rating: 7/10