My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Eight years ago Gen Loxley gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Beth. Since then she’s found it impossible to move on, floundering whilst her charismatic husband, Art, flourishes. Then, one day a stranger arrives at her door with news she could only dream of- Beth is alive.
Initially distrustful of this stranger, Gen quickly finds herself sucked into a sinkhole of unanswered questions and suspicious behaviour. Why is her best friend Hen having secret conversations with Art, why can she not find anybody who was present at the stillbirth to corroborate that her baby was dead on delivery, who was Art transferring money to just a few days after the birth?
In her first adult novel Sophie McKenzie weaves a tale full of confusion and doubt which keeps the reader guessing to the very end. Gen is portrayed as a very sensitive and vulnerable person and this makes her whole narrative uncertain. Should the reader be on her side, or is she suffering from paranoid delusions caused by her grief? The underlying tension between Gen and Art, and indeed Gen and most of her family and friends means the reader is constantly switching sides. Every new piece of information that is uncovered is marred by the unreliable perceptions of the characters. You find yourself certain that you know what is coming next, only to question the source of the information that led you to this assumption.
The child’s narrative that intersperses throughout the story remains a mystery to the end of the story. I found myself getting sucked into the story and every time I had decided that Gen was paranoid I’d reach another page written from this mystery child’s point of view and be completely thrown off the scent again.
Ultimately I did guess the ending of the novel, whether this was because I am particularly good at sleuthing or because I had a lucky guess I don’t know! However, guessing the ending didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all. At times I was wriggling in my chair, so eager was I to reach an explanation. Even when the answers do start arriving they are drip fed to the reader and this infuriated me and delighted me in equal measure!
I did find a few red herring plots a little bland, but then novels such as this need many different possible avenues in order to avoid the real ending being guessed. Additionally, I found that the end dragged on a little too long for my liking and some of the action could have been cut out and tidied up to keep to the climatic pace I felt I had been built up for.
Finally, the last page of this book was possibly one of the most chilling things I have ever read. If you’re one of those people who like to sneak a peek at the end books before they start reading- do not do it with Close my Eyes. The ending is worth waiting for!
This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads 24th April 2017.