book review: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

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Thank you to Penguin – Random House UK and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!

It’s a shame that this book has been boxed into the “thriller” category, because it’s really more of a straight up mystery, with a ‘surprise twist’ (re: I guessed it midway through, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel).

Dear Amy has an interesting premise. Margot Lewis is an agony aunt who begins to receive letters from someone purporting to be Bethan Avery, a young girl who disappeared years before. Interspersed with Margot’s story, we also watch as Katie Browne, a troubled teenager, is held captive in a dark cellar by a sadistic kidnapper. As the plots converge, it becomes clear that Margot’s mysterious letters may hold the key to finding Katie – and maybe, Bethan too.

Like I said, I guessed the twist. It’s also strange to me that I believed Margot to be in her fifties for a good portion of the novel, before I realized she was actually quite a bit younger. However, she’s an enjoyable character in the sense that she’s very human – she generally dislikes most people, reacts believably to her husband’s infidelity and has a sarcastic sense of humour. In short, she’s a bit neurotic and unlikable. (Aren’t most human beings?)

Midway through, the novel begins to spiral into into the realm of the ‘unbelievable’, but it was still an entertaining read. Callaghan has a deft hand with tension at some points (none at all in others… fault of the editing, perhaps?) and her grasp of the unreliable narrator is strong. Treat this as a mystery, and you’ll be satisfied. Just don’t go looking for too many ‘thrills’ – this is mainly a study of the mind.

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