Review: How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

Tuesday 31 March 2015
Title: How I Lost You
Author: Jenny Blackhurst
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 23rd April 2015
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781472218964
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 2/5
Purchase: Amazon
They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you? My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my tattered life.

This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he's dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

Like most bloggers when I saw the proofs for How I Lost You I wanted to read it. Unfortunately the best thing about the book is its blurb and that proof cover. I don't really write reviews for books I would rate less than 3 stars, but given my disappointment with this book and the fact that I somehow managed to finish it, I wanted to get my frustration out somewhere. It's hard for me to fully explain my issues without possibly spoiling the book so read on with that warning.

Susan Webster is released from a psychiatric institute with a new identity as Emma Cartwright after she murdered her twelve-week-old son Dylan. Emma receives a letter addressed to Susan Webster, containing a photograph of a toddler named Dylan. (Well there's most of the suspense gone) and with no memory of the event she must somehow try and put the pieces back together and remember what happened three years ago.

The first thing is that I just couldn't take to the character of Susan. I was pretty detached and emotionless throughout the whole of this novel just due to the fact that she's actually a quite stupid character, put into contrived situation after contrived situation. Rather than move to a major city, she moves to somewhere quiet where new residents stick out like a sore thumb. After the letter it becomes clear somebody is watching her, and to the rescue comes a journalist (yes, really) who rather than use Susan for a story like any other journalist would, he practically moves hundreds of miles from his home to 'protect' her and we then have instant romance with Susan practically throwing herself at him (glaringly obvious from the start that he had an agenda). Susan makes rash and impulsive decisions that you wouldn't expect somebody that has been through what she has been through to make. With most of the characters that we meet appearing shady and untrustworthy, it was like a bad movie where the main character would wake up at the end and realise it was all a dream.

The writing style and language used is quite juvenile at times. The tension and suspense in the book is virtually non-existent. I actually found myself as I was reading coming up in my head with different scenarios as to what could have happened to Emma three years ago and imagining my own plot twists. There is of course a suspension of disbelief when it comes to psychological thrillers, but not as the expense of the reader's intelligence. The actual culmination itself, the 'reveal', didn't really redeem the book either and felt rushed. In the background of the story, we have italicised chapters featuring a bunch of male teenagers becoming adults and carrying out some particularly evil acts along the way, the ringleader in particular was probably one of the more interesting characters and whilst I can see what the author was trying to do, it just didn't work for me. There's also far too many characters that at times I had trouble remembering who was who which meant that these chapters just confused me until later in the book.

Just because I didn't enjoy the book doesn't mean others won't, probably those that haven't read many thrillers and so are shocked and thrilled by their first forays into the genre. I imagine seasoned readers will agree that this is pretty mediocre. Therefore I wouldn't personally recommend this book to a friend but I would say to readers maybe take a chance on it and see what you think.


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