Twenty-Seven Minutes

Written by Ashley Tate

Review written by P. D. Viner

P.D. Viner is a crime writer and film maker. Baker and coffee fiend. Course director of the Goldsboro Writing Academy.

Twenty-Seven Minutes
RRP: £16.09
Released: February 1 2024

Twenty-Seven Minutes has a fabulous set-up and hook. Ten years ago, Phoebe Dean died in a terrible road accident. She was thrown through the windscreen of the truck her brother was driving. Her injuries were catastrophic, they would have been life-altering but not necessarily fatal. She may have survived if an ambulance had been called immediately. Instead, her brother Grant called the emergency services twenty-seven minutes later. By then she was dead, leaving the readers some disturbing questions.

Why did he wait – was he sobering up?

What part did the other passenger in the truck (Becca Hoyt) play in the tragedy?

What happened in those twenty-seven minutes?

What is the significance that on the night that Phoebe Dean died, local good-for-nothing Wyatt Delroy disappeared? Are these two events linked?

The book then jumps forward ten years as two events bring the climax of the story to a head. The first is that Phoebe Dean’s mother is planning a memorial to her dead daughter. Phoebe had been the brightest and smartest in the small town of West Wilmer. She had plans to escape the confines of her home in order to make something of herself. Ten years prior, her mother had been too grief-stricken to hold a proper funeral service and so she wants to honour her daughter now. As there has been another accident on the bridge where Phoebe died, there is a vote in town to take the bridge down; and for some reason Grant Dean is desperate for the bridge to stay up. To add petrol to the fire, after ten years away, Wyatt Delroy returns, telling his sister June that he knows the truth about what happened back then.

This novel has a fantastic set-up that hooks the reader, however as the narrative zig-zags between the past and the present, there is little plot added to the story; instead the reader gets growing paranoia in the characters of Grant and Becca, plus an accelerating feeling of dread from Wyatt (who is clearly dying). At times this feels like a teen crime soap opera – not unlike Riverdale or 13 Reasons Why. The characters were college kids ten years ago and now they’re in their late twenties, but they still feel and think like kids.

Back in the day, both of the Deans had an opportunity to get out of this small town, Grant was a college football star and Phoebe was smart enough to escape. Phoebe died and Grant imploded.  Everyone is stuck where they were, festering in old resentments.

Many readers will love this book, but I didn’t respond to any of the characters. I didn’t feel any empathy for them as the narrative noose tightened. Maybe the pressures of small-town living and unrealised ambition don’t work for me. It’s a claustrophobic book, with young characters who are lost and self-absorbed. Though well written and the dual time line works robustly - but the twenty-seven minute hook didn’t pay-off for me, and the secondary plot-line of what happened to Wyatt never drew me in. But if you love Pretty Little Liars, or any other teen crime show (or YA fiction) then this could work for you.

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