Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality. Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past. Sue will do anything to protect her daughter. But what if she is the reason that Charlotte is in danger?
In very much in a similar vein to Claire Kendal’s The Book of You or Elizabeth Haynes Into The Darkest Corner, author Cally Taylor in a new guise, launches her crime writing career with this dark psychological thriller. In this increasingly overcrowded sub-genre of crime writing, with many books treading a similar path, how did The Accident fare?
The book opens with a seemingly settled, middle aged married woman, waiting at the bedside of her comatose teenage daughter, who has been involved in an accident, and is currently hovering between life and death. The story hinges on what has driven Sue’s daughter, Charlotte, to the brink of suicide, and charts the former life of Sue and her former unbalanced mental state, precipitated by a destructive and bullying relationship some years previously. Taylor implements a dual narrative structure with a twenty year lapse between the two, using Sue’s diaries charting the course of this damaging relationship with the manipulative James, in the 1990s, and in a symbiotic circle, using the reading of Charlotte’s diary in the present time, to provide some insight into her daughter’s attempted suicide. As the story unfolds, we observe the level of distrust and suspicion inherent in Sue’s current marriage to Brian (a member of parliament who has strayed on occasion), the effects of Charlotte’s secret life revealed by her diary, and the possible reappearance of the evil James in Sue’s life, reawakening Sue’s previously fragile mental state.
Structure wise, the tried and tested method of diary entries from the past interspersed into the current narrative, was certainly the strongest aspect of the narrative, charting Sue’s relationship with James, but quickly signposting the erratic and destructive aspects of James’ character. As any woman who has suffered in an abusive relationship knows, what initially seem to be relatively harmless indicators can quickly escalate into a claustrophobic and fearful situation, and Taylor captures well the denigration of Sue’s mental state within the confines of this relationship. and her efforts to escape from it. Less successful for me was the current storyline, and I cared little for the secrets harboured in her daughter’s life, and Sue’s faintly ridiculous attempts to be ‘down with the kids’ in an effort to uncover the reasons for her daughter’s accident. I found this a little clunky, and a bit far fetched to be honest but, as the whole book gravitated quickly between both narratives, my annoyance was quickly quashed by the balance between the return to the diary entries. The characterisation throughout was relatively successful, and I felt that the author had invested much effort into Sue herself and her mental anguish, but did find the surrounding protagonists a little less well-formed, conforming to a status of mere bit players in the overall plot, with only really James being more vital, interesting and downright sinister, within the plot.
I will put my hands up, and admit to being a little jaded by this genre of crime, following the plethora of releases, so similar in style and narrative structure. However, I think the comparisons to Gone Girl, Before I Go To Sleep and The Silent Wife, are justified as this is very much in a similar vein to these, and will be enjoyed by readers of this genre. You will be hooked instantaneously, and the pace that Taylor affords to the narrative will keep you reading despite the minor flaws in the present day storyline, and the slightly less depth inherent in the overall characterisation. An entertaining enough read, and perfect for fans of the psychological thriller.
CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She currently works as a Distance Learning Design and Development manager for a London university. She credits Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ for her love of a dark, twisted tale. www.cltaylorauthor.com Follow on Twitter @callytaylor
(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)