Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Back Road - Rachel Abbott




I was impressed by Rachel Abbott's addictive debut novel, Only the Innocent - you can read my review here - I found it a genuine page-turner, hard to put down, and I wrote at the time that I was excited to see what she would create next. Having heard that she had completed her second novel, The Back Road, I was therefore very keen to get between the pages and discover the secrets contained within.


The Back Road introduces us to half-sisters Ellie Saunders and Leo Harris. Ellie is living with her family in what was the sisters’ childhood home, now fully converted from the place it once was. We learn that there were dark times in the sisters’ pasts, and returning to the village of Little Melham is a major step for life coach Leo considering the deep unhappiness she recalls from her time there when she was younger; the girls share starkly conflicting feelings as to the role their father played in their lives.

Then the author introduces us to a wider cast of characters who come together for a dinner party at Ellie’s home. Prior to this though, there is an intriguing opening to the novel and we learn of a desperate flight be a fourteen-year-old local girl Abbie and know that someone is in pursuit. She is knocked down and left for dead in a hit and run incident, which happens on the significant back road in the town. Ellie is a nurse and was called to tend to the girl when she arrived in hospital.

The scene is very nicely set-up for us to observe and get to know the dinner guests as they interact with each other, and various aspects of their behaviour and personalities began to arouse my suspicions. Several of their stories don’t necessarily seem to ring true and I started to question who amongst them I could trust; what secrets are hidden behind the beautiful fa├žade of this home and village?

‘The mood around the table was strange. To Leo it seemed as if everyone was acting a part that was different from any version of themselves she had ever seen. As an observer of this intriguing phenomenon she had the best seat in the house…’

There is a welcome return for the character of Tom Douglas who featured in Only the Innocent as a police detective. This time he appears in a civilian capacity as one of the neighbours who attends the dinner party. We catch up with him having moved to be nearer to his daughter, and it’s interesting to see him in this different role. 

Rachel Abbott has created a clever scenario and written an intriguing crime story here, incorporating twists as the tale progresses, and created some highly suspicious characters; she does a good job of making them open to question by the reader, with the secrets and rumours that abound. She is skilled at showing insight into the motives and psychology behind her chracters’ behaviour, and had me thinking about each of them as I read; what were their motives, their secrets, their relationships, who was concealing what here, I wondered, as I tried to decipher whodunit from amongst the lies, looking for the hints and gradual revelations. A clever psychological crime and mystery novel. 


Thanks to the author for kindly providing an early ebook copy of this novel to read and give an honest review.

You can follow the author on twitter @_RachelAbbott  and visit her website here.

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