After being made redundant from a seemingly secure job Jolene Carr takes a two week break in the sun. On the first day she meets Raquel, another hotel guest. Little does she realise how this apparently innocent acquaintance will lead to terrible and lasting consequences. After a frightening incident she hits a conspiracy of silence from the locals and over the rest of the holiday she feels herself slipping into a vortex of fear. Back home, the nightmare continues and she realises that Raquel is stalking her. Her hippie mother and her partner Mark tell her she is imagining it all. All certainties, even about relationships, become fluid and treacherous as her past begins to unravel. If it wasn't for Rob, her ex-lover who Jolene thinks has his own agenda, she would be left to cope on her own.
How much fear and betrayal can one person take?
About the author...
Amanda Sington Williams' first novel, The Eloquence of Desire was published by Sparkling Books in 2010 and has been translated into Turkish. She won an award for this novel in 2007 from the Royal Literary Fund. Since 2006 when she first started writing she has had many short stories published, including: Growing Pains by Bridgehouse Publishing, A Mother's Love by Indigo Mosaic, Two Orchids by Sentinel Literary Quarterly. Unseasonable Weather by Dead Ink Press, The Woman at Number Six by Writing Raw, and many more.
Her second novel, Just Two Weeks is a psychological suspense and won the IPR Agents Pick in 2013.
I was given an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour organised by JB Johnston at Brook Cottage Books which I'm more than happy to do.
The main character Jolene Carr - Jo has been laid off work and has booked a two week holiday in the sun in Sri-Lanka to gather her thoughts and re-charge her batteries. The story begins with Jo wakening in her hotel room on the first day of her holiday.
It's very clear from the very first page that Jo is on edge, nervy and disorientated - was it caused by jet-lag or something else at this stage we don't know? Amanda's style of writing hooked me straight away - short clippy sentences that made me read quickly adding to the tension that was already palpable - I felt Jo's unease as clearly as if it was mine.
Jo is befriended almost instantly by another single traveller who oozes confidence, making suggestions and decisions without waiting for an answer. Her character appearing so vibrant against Jo, someone who so desperately wants to blend into the background. But, before she knows it Jo's first day is organised by Zara and she hasn't the energy to argue, so just goes with the flow - a decision she will live to regret.
Jo's state of unease is raised by events that took place on the first day, she becomes paranoid and scared. Not sure who to trust - everyone seems to be smiling and nodding in the right place yet she feels she can't trust anyone. The heightened tension, heat, foreign country and Jo's state of mind made me as a reader uneasy, I couldn't decide myself who she should trust or was it all in her mind. I read faster and faster, not wanting to put the book down, just willing her to get on a plane home to the safety of her own home.
Safely back at home, in England, with her husband Jo's problems should be gone but if anything they are worse. She'd almost convinced herself that some of the problems were in her own mind but she soon becomes convinced that she really is being stalked, that her problems have followed her home. As a reader I was right there, holding her hand, convinced with her. However, her family, they're convinced she's paranoid, that there is a simple explanation for everything and she's just overwrought. As a reader it's clear there is a stalker, it is happening - it's just, who is it, why is it happening and will it end in time? I can't deny I love thrillers but there are scenes in this book that had me spooked, wishing for a fast resolution.
As the story progresses Amanda gives us some back history which allows more of an understanding to the characters. Life is full of problems and responsibilities and people are often blinded to others because of what's happening in their own life. Yet, the more people that get involved the muddier the waters are for a while, complicating the story - in a good way - who is actually looking out for who and who can Jo trust? It's amazing how seeming small things can happen in our lives that barely touch our radar, yet have such a profound effect on others. It's the little things that shape this book. Amanda dropping them in at intervals, keeping the interest and pace going right until the end.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page of this book. Amanda created characters that got beneath my skin, situations that would be everyone's worst nightmare compounded as I'm sure is very often the case, by family and friends trying to pacify and gloss over Jo's fears. All the characters were real and engaging for me, Jo's character in particular, I felt her pain, her anguish and manic like state, willing someone - anyone to believe her totally - I was frustrated with everyone, her mother, husband, friends - those people should have been her strongest allies, the fact that they so often seemingly dismissed her fears really adds to the tension.
I highly recommend this thriller to everyone, it was a very quick read for me, I literally couldn't put it down, written in a style that adds to the tension and pace - outstanding, thank you so much Amanda, another author new to me that I'll be seeking out again.