‘Sup readers? Welcome back to this week’s On The Shelf; if you’ve been here before, you know the score: (almost) every week, I read and review a newly-released piece of literature so that you don’t have to, and let you know if it’s good enough to take up permanent residence, spine-out, on your shelf, or if it’s better saved as an ebook purchase. Also, because I’m a glutton for punishment, this week’s book is yet another thriller (my last two thriller reviews were salty and saltier. I know, I need to learn to sheathe my claws, especially considering the courage and determination it takes to write a book, then get it published. I’m working on it, but, baby steps). The novel in question is No Turning Back by Tracy Buchanan, and before we get into the nitty-gritty, I need to drop a disclaimer right here:
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
No Turning Back follows Anna Graves, a radio presenter who’s just trying to catch life’s many curve-balls: her husband has left, her boss is a snotty upstart, and she’s murdered a local schoolboy. I should probably back up a bit.
No Turning Back examines one of society’s favourite hypotheticals: what would you do to protect your child? The overwhelming majority, no holds barred, would probably say, “anything,” up to and including murder. It’s a clear call. Anna knows this from personal experience: while walking on the beach with her baby daughter, Joni, they’re attacked by a feral teenage boy, Elliot Nunn, and Anna reacts on pure instinct, stabbing him in the neck with a comb. And as soon as the adrenaline dies down, Anna promptly becomes aware of three things:
1) The boy isn’t even old enough to drive.
2) She has just killed Elliot Nunn, who isn’t even old enough to drive. Elliot is someone’s little boy, he has a mother who loves him as fiercely as she loves Joni. And she will never see him alive again.
3) Public perception is everything, and by-and-large, the public sees her as a hero. But what seems like a black-and-white call in the light of day turns into a traumatic landscape of shades of grey as time goes on, a spiderweb of unintended consequences that will rock Anna, Joni, and their formerly-normal life to the core.
As if the struggle isn’t real enough, Anna’s story is threaded with that of The Ophelia Killer, a serial murderer of dark-haired, blue-eyed teenage boys like Elliot, who has been dormant for over a decade. When Anna starts getting messages from The Ophelia Killer, congratulating her on her killer instinct, she’s pushed to the edge of her own sanity, wondering just how far the darkness inside her reaches.
I loved the premise of this book, and it’s my first experience with Buchanan’s writing style, though she’s penned a host of other books. I will let you know right now that I’m a bit biased towards this story because of Anna’s background in journalism: the day-to-day aspects of her job weren’t described in painstaking detail, but Buchanan wrote enough to make it realistic, so that did count as a point for No Turning Back. Also, this wasn’t a chore to read: the mystery was engaging, and everything flowed smoothly rather than jerking awkwardly from unbelievable happening to unbelievable happening. Anna has been through a lot and continues to persevere, despite a recluse mother who can barely look at her, and a brother who’s a class A jerkwad. Throughout the book, The Ophelia Killer’s initial crop of murders are recounted, granting regular interludes from Anna’s story but also providing the perfect mix of chilling and creepy. If I had to read an entire novel from TKO’s perspective, I’d probably sleep with the lights on all week.
Honestly, No Turning Back is the perfect thriller for the beach. I flew through it. I do have some little nitpick-y issues with the way No Turning Back skips merrily from one week to the next, and sometimes felt Anna was a distant character rather than an immersive one (but every character is like that, which is maybe why the romance felt a bit off at first. I grew to like it eventually), but they’re not enough to stop me from recommending it for your shelf or your beach bag, if you’re planning on taking a trip in the near future. If No Turning Back sounds like your cup of tea, you can grab a copy here.