Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie – 7/10

“Of course, what I didn’t realise then is that grief, like the seasons, is cyclical. I would just start to feel open to life again, then find myself thrust back under the water, drowning in loss.”

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Geniver Loxley lost her daughter Beth in a stillbirth eight years ago, and has been struggling ever since. When a stranger turns up on her doorstep, claiming that Beth is still alive and that there was a huge conspiracy to have Geniver believe that Beth is dead, and then that stranger is killed in a hit-and-run, Gen can’t help but cling to the thread of hope, and, terrified of the violence seeking to catch up with her, she starts to try to track down her daughter.

This is a very tightly written thriller; McKenzie steers Geniver neatly down the line between compulsion and madness, between paranoia and reasonable fear. Like Geniver, the reader never knows whether her husband is involved or not, whose information she can trust, or whether Geniver is actually mad. The voice of a child weaves through the story, popping up intermittently, and remains a mystery until the end – enough to keep the reader looking for the next interruption. It reminded me a lot of Louise Douglas’ The Secrets Between Us, although the characterisation is tighter and the mystery/madness angle more delicate than in TSBU.

In a sense, there is a little too much background information on the main characters: so much time and so many words are spent on Art’s background, his rise to money and fame – it’s clear that he is desperate to succeed at all costs. Similarly, we spend just a bit too time in Geniver’s reproductive doldrums; as if a stillbirth wasn’t traumatic enough, she hasn’t fallen pregnant since and remains single-mindedly focussed on Beth, excluded from her friends’ worlds of muddy football kit and birthday parties. In some ways, her exclusion from the world of a mother calls into question her suitability to take charge of a child, should Beth be found alive.

I’d figured out that the villain must be one of three people, given the assortment of red herrings, and was gratified to discover that one of them was the main villain, with a lot of help from a second one! There’s a really chilling ending to this one, after the big climax/shoot-out/confrontation which we all knew was coming, which I didn’t expect and which ends the reading experience with quite a cold, brutal feeling – as if the rest of the book wasn’t brutal enough!

A well-paced, enthralling debut – I look forward to more of McKenzie’s work.

Additional information:
Copy kindly provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 390 pages (paperback)
Order Close My Eyesfrom Amazon*
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One thought on “Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie – 7/10

  1. […] Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie – a fairly harrowing tale of a child taken at birth – or not taken at birth. We doubt narrator Gen’s capacity even more than she doubts her own. […]

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