One son lied. One son died.
That's the catchphrase for Emily Koch's exciting new thriller KEEP HIM CLOSE, a dark domestic psychological mystery drama with a slow burn that builds with a tension that's palpable. I wouldn't call it a thriller as such but there are parts to it that does have a thriller element. I don't generally like slow burns but this is one that keeps your interest despite its slow pace to begin with.
The story opens with a snippet of the event that is clearly at the centre of this dark mystery. The moment is tense with a fear that is palpable. And then it is gone. Leaving readers questioning "what just happened?"
Alice Hyde is single mother of two teenage sons who couldn't be more different from each other. Benny, the eldest, is sweet and gentle and about to start university in Exeter whilst Lou is the troubled younger child who has never given her a moments peace since the day he was born. But Alice loves her boys despite their differences...and the fact that Lou's intimidating behaviour sometimes scares her that she wonders if she'll ever be free of him. She hates that she thinks that of her own son but unlike Benny, Lou knows how to push her buttons.
The opening chapter, after the rather dramatic prologue, Alice is preparing for Benny's departure for university as well as dealing with the growing fractiousness with younger son Lou. The conversation and barbs Lou alludes to whilst dancing over the loft opening, which he knows will provoke his stoic mother, gives readers the opinion that this boy had little or no respect for her. The boy certainly grated on my nerves as Alice herself presented as cold and aloof. Neither of them are completely likable...at first.
When Ben and Lou leave the house that evening for a night on the town, Alice doesn't know it will be the last time she sees her youngest son. Her boys are 18 and 19, old enough to look after themselves and she doesn't worry when they haven't returned by the time she goes to bed that night. But in the early hours when she gets a knock on the door, she knows something is wrong. Police inform her that there had been an incident which has resulted in Lou's death.
When Benny returns home, he is quiet. He says little though he admits to being there but not at the time of Lou's death so he never saw anything. But Alice fears he is hiding something when things don't add up.
Indigo Owen is also a single mother to 19 year old Kane. He was out with Benny and Lou the night of Lou's death and he is riddled with guilt over something Indigo can't quite understand. He breaks down and tells his mother all he knows and she suggests they tell the police. After all, they are piecing together the events of that night to discover what happened to Lou. But little does Indigo know that this step of honesty on her son's part does little to close the chapter on his guilt over that night. After hours of questioning, police then inform her that they are charging Kane with Lou's murder after he confessed to the incident. Indigo is outraged. She knows her son and she knows he is innocent.
Both Alice and Indigo are desperate to uncover what really happened on that tragic night. Two very different women who, after a chance meeting, unite to find out the truth in the midst of secrets. What will they uncover? Who else was there that night Lou fell to his death? What did they see, if anything? And why, if he is innocent, did Kane confess to killing Lou? Is he protecting someone? If so, who? And Benny - what is he hiding? He certainly seems to know more than what he's letting on.
Alice and Indigo believe they know their boys...but do they really?
A very different type of psychological thriller blended with taut domestic drama that is both dark and tense throughout, KEEP HIM CLOSE is a thought provoking and emotional read. Although it is a slow burn, it is addictive in its tension and powerful emotion. As the story unfolds and the truth slowly emerges, a light is finally cast on the shadow of doubt surrounding that fateful night.
Told primarily from Alice and Indigo's perspectives throughout, readers are also given a short glimpse from the other players on the night in question - Benny, Kane and even Lou himself. These chapters are equally revealing as well as adding to the mystery. A very cleverly written story, KEEP HIM CLOSE is not fast paced or even action packed, but it is addictive with an underlying suspense that will keep the reader hooked to the very last page.
I would like to thank #EmilyKoch, #NetGalley and #RandomHouseUK and #VintagePublishing for an ARC of #KeepHimClose in exchange for an honest review.
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