Happy publication day to Debbie Howells, The Death of Her releases today!
A woman’s body is discovered on a Cornish farm, battered and left for dead in a maize field. Airlifted to hospital, her life hanging in the balance, no one’s sure who she is. Three days later she comes round, but her memory is damaged. She knows her name – Evie – but no more, until she remembers another name. Angel – her three-year-old daughter. As the police circulate Evie’s photo, someone recognizes her. Charlotte knew her years ago, at school, when another child went missing. Leah Danning, who vanished whilst in Evie’s care. When the police search Evie’s home, there’s no sign of Angel. More disturbingly, there’s no evidence that she ever lived there, forcing the police to question whether Evie’s having some kind of breakdown. But even from the darkest place she’s ever known, Evie believes her daughter is alive. The police remain unconvinced – unaware that on the fringes of Evie’s life, there’s someone else. Someone hidden, watching her every move, with their own agenda and their own twisted version of reality.
I’ve long been a fan of unreliable narration in novels, while this unreliable narration being achieved through memory loss is not a new idea, it’s one that works really well – The Death of Her is a perfect example of this. I really liked the way Howell chose to display this unreliable narration, rather than Evie as the narrator, the story was narrated mainly by Charlotte – the school friend from years ago, Jack – a police officer investigating the case and Casey – the sister of Leah Danning. Keeping Evie’s first-person narrative from us created the suspense because we were never privy to the inner workings of her mind, without some insight into the what she was thinking and only what she told others, made it hard to decide whether to believe her or if she was hiding information, disguising it as memory loss.
While all narration was in the present day, Casey’s started in 1998 and talked a lot about her childhood – it was the darkest of the narrations but it added another level of uncertainty to the plot because you weren’t sure if her narrative was going to end up casting Evie in a positive or negative light.
The events in this novel don’t come thick and fast, in fact, things happen at a very slow pace, yet this novel is a quick read – I read it in one sitting. As the events moved at a slow pace, it felt sometimes like the plot was dragging a bit, it felt like for too long nothing was happening. As there was no complex character studies on display, I felt there was nothing to push along the excitement or suspense after a while. Howell does give us a look at one of the characters in more detail and this has the potential for psychological thrills but for me, I felt this plot was more reliant on the mystery itself (who attacked Evie) rather than the psychological elements.
The writing style was simple (that isn’t a criticism) and this allowed me to continue reading even when my interest dipped at times. The Death of Her falls on the ‘light-hearted’ side of psychological thrillers and may be perfect for readers who don’t like their psychological thrillers deep and disturbing. This plot may come across as weak to the seasoned psychological thriller reader due to the simplicity of the plot and lack of in-depth detail, you never really feel the danger Evie’s facing.
Overall, I enjoyed this book for what it was; I wouldn’t rush to recommend it but if it crosses your path and you’re in the mood for an easy-read, pick it up.
*My thanks to the publisher (Macmillan) for granting me access to a digital copy of this book via Netgalley*