Deep, dark secrets. Dysfunctional families. Unrelenting intrigue. And a powerful twist at the end!
I wasn't sure what to expect from Karen Cole's DECEIVE ME, but it wasn't this! I thought it would be another missing child/runaway teen thriller...but I was wrong. So very wrong. What it was...was just WOW! And that conclusion was so unexpected.
Joanna and her husband Chris have relocated to the island of Cyprus with their two children, Grace and Jack. From the very beginning, we learn that Grace has disappeared from school on Monday morning, having been absent from her classes, leaving Jo in a state of panic. They call in the police who don't appear overly concerned but rather more jovial with each contact, dismissing Grace as a teenage runaway who will soon return home. But Jo knows different. Grace wouldn't just leave, would she?
Their move to Cyprus had been to give Grace a fresh start...and some distance from her boyfriend, Tom, who Jo felt was far too old for her. But Tom, it appears, picked up his whole life and followed them to the Mediterranean isle to be near Grace. Could he know where Grace is? Chris is convinced he has something to do with her disappearance and can barely contain his anger. But Jo isn't so sure.
As Jo searches for answers, she does everything she can to find Grace. Questioning her friends, Tom and even searching her room. Jo is under no illusions that her relationship with her daughter has been tense lately, but it's only because Jo wants what's best for her...and doesn't want her making the same mistakes she did. But as Jo delves into Grace's life she realises how little she really knows her daughter.
From early on, we learn that Chris is Grace's stepfather though she adores him and considers him to be her only father. Whilst growing up, Grace showed no interest in her biological father stating that if he was at all interested in her then he has had 15 years to seek her out...and he hasn't. So when Jo learns that Grace had crossed to the northern side of Cyprus, where her biological father Hakan (a Turkish Cypriot) lives, she begins to wonder if she went looking for answers herself. It prompts Jo to visit Hakan herself as she is reminded of her last summer in Cyprus seventeen years ago, before she had Grace. And the past that she has so desperately tried to escape comes back to haunt her.
DECEIVE ME is told from two perspectives - Jo in the present day and Jo seventeen years ago. This dual timeline was incredibly effective as we meet the much younger 17 year old Jo facing the challenges of her life at the time which led her to take up a post in Cyprus with Hakan and his wife Helen. Whilst the story is primarily set in the present day of 2017 surrounding Grace's disappearance, we get snapshots of the past through Jo's eyes which has ultimately culminated into the present day events.
Jo's loneliness could be felt within the pages as she returned home to England, to her mother's house to find her useless junkie stepfather shacked up with someone named Mandy. But the reader could really get a sense no more than when Jo went into labour and gave birth to little Gracie. Then came Hakan's promises...quickly followed by his excuses. And Jo's life changed course in a way you never saw coming.
Characters such as Jo, Chris, Grace, Tom and even the useless Dave were all well-developed. Even Hakan was developed enough for the part he played in the story but boy I could have smacked him on more than one occasion! And when Dave turned up in Cyprus, I just knew this could only mean trouble. I just didn't think he was smart enough to put the pieces together. Jo irritated me a little. Particularly when she told Chris "No more lies" and then proceeded to continue lying to him herself! I found the police a little patronising at times but that could just be down to the language and cultural barrier. Detective Dino did try his best to keep Jo and Chris at ease, treated them with respect throughout and didn't let personal opinions cloud the investigation. Despite playing such a minor role in the story. But everyone else? Everyone else was suspect.
I really enjoyed watching Jo's story unfold throughout the two timelines, wondering what would happen next and if she would just wake up to Hakan. It's abundantly clear to everyone but 17 year old Jo that he didn't really care for her; he just wanted to get his leg over. And then the older Jo, searching for her missing daughter, you had to wonder - just what is she trying to hide?
DECEIVE ME is not a fast paced story but it is unpredictable at almost every turn. Just when you thought you knew how it would turn out, everything is turned on its head! By the end, pretty much anything could happen...and it did! Even when the reveal of Jo's big secret came I was shocked I didn't even see it coming! And it didn't stop there...the shocks just kept coming...and coming! And then that ending?! WOW! I don't even have the words.
A very different missing teenager story, DECEIVE ME will even have the reader deceived! A definite recommend.
I would like to thank #KarenCole, #NetGalley and #QuercusBooks for an ARC of #DeceiveMe in exchange for an honest review.