It’s only over the last couple of years that my reading tastes have expanded to include crime novels and psychological thrillers. As a younger reader, the thought of picking up a book with blood, horror, or a plot to give me nightmares was a big no no. Now, I can’t get enough. Jo Nesbo and Linwood Barclay are my favourite authors in this genre. Nesbo tells his stories through a detective, Harry Hole, and keeps me on my toes with clever twists and well-written blood and gore. Barclay narrates his novels from the point of view of someone connected with the victim, usually in the same family, giving a fresh edge to this genre.
I have all of Barclay’s books, including his latest ‘Broken Promise’ in hardback and signed by the man himself (eeek!), and most of Nesbo’s collection on my shelf, but I also love picking up other authors and stand-alones, when in Waterstones, that sound deliciously intriguing and perhaps a little chilling.
‘Her’ by Harriet Lane was an example of one such novel. I was immediately drawn to it by the clever use the tagline weaved in to the title: “You Don’t Remember Her But She Remembers You.” Written from the perspectives of the two main characters, this is a novel that can be summed up by the phrase ‘subtle chills’. The plot will not hit you over the face with its bloody hands; it will not plant bombs and let them off in your imagination. Instead, it is subtle, intricate, dropping in finespun hints and delicate clues that are almost unnoticeable. Lane makes the reader work for it, and then leaves them dumbstruck: what on earth happened and, most importantly, why did it happen?
Since finishing the novel, I’ve read a few reviews of it on Amazon, and it seems as if most people didn’t rate it highly because of the ending. But I think they just didn’t get it. I think Lane didn’t intend to wrap it all up for the reader and tie up all loose ends; I think she deliberately only spent the last 2 pages on the climax because it didn’t need any further explanation. Revenge had been served and that was that.
‘Her’ made me ponder all the small things that happen in life, and how they can have a profound impact on the path you take and the decisions you make. Although the antagonist of the novel was clearly unbalanced, it was a small happening that twisted her mind. And I suppose this is what was most clever about Lane’s novel: ordinary characters appear to have ordinary lives, but appearances can be deceptive.