Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
What would you do if a stranger turned up on your doorstep one day and told you that the baby who died in your womb – the one you've been mouring for the past eight years – is really alive: that she was stolen from you when you were in surgery and that the people closest to you might have been in collusion with the doctor to rob you of your child?
This is the shocking turn of events that Gen has to confront in Sophie McKenzie's Close My Eyes, a thriller that I have seen literally everywhere since it was sent to me for review (job well done by the Simon & Schuster sales team). Billed as a thriller for fans of Sophie Hannah and Gillian Flynn, Close My Eyes is a readable psychological drama. It will get you from A to B comfortably and enjoyably. You just have to put aside the fact that Gen isn't that exciting a character – I found her rather bland – and while McKenzie does draw you into the story, I wasn't sure if I cared enough about either Gen or her husband Art to put Close My Eyes ahead of I Am Pilgrim in my 'currently reading pile' (and I am aware that they are both very different books and that it's probably an unfair comparison).
What I did think McKenzie does well is to show us Gen's on-going grief over the death of her baby and her inability to move on from this emotionally debilitating event – both professionally and personally. While her husband, friends and agent (Gen is a writer who has not written since it happened) want her to pull herself together and attempt to come to terms with it, Gen is unable to – she's scared to move on and yet she's scared to stay where she is. It's this Gen that the reader empathises with and this is where McKenzie strikes a chord. Grief is personal and there's no time limit to how long it lasts. It can also make you do some pretty crazy things in Gen's case.
There are some good twists in the narrative, but the final denouement is a bit stretched. The various pages told from the voice of a child add a sinister note, but the main 'baddy' is rather over-the-top (in a bunny-boiler kind of way). Still, McKenzie has some good ideas and I noticed from her author bio that this is her first adult novel and she is also an award-winning writer for children and teenagers. Sounds familiar . . .
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