Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface…and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble. But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?
Head into any bookstore, or the book aisle of any supermarket, and chances are that you’ll see myriad psychological thrillers gracing the tables and shelves. The pacy plots, shocking twists and heart-pounding tension have made the genre increasingly popular with readers – which in turn has made it increasingly popular with publishers, eager to give those readers more of what they want. How then, to stand out in an increasingly saturated market, where a good twist comes as standard and unreliable narrators are ten a penny? Enter Louise Voss with The Old You – a true domestic noir with a unique take on the genre, more twists that a bag of pretzels and a subtlety of style that’s unusual for the genre.
The key to the novel is Ed’s diagnosis with a Pick’s Disease, a rare form of early onset dementia. A cruel illness, it’s easy to sympathise with Louise as she watches her beloved husband – a man she has sacrificed her career and her friendships for – rapidly deteriorate, going from a loving, confident and intellectual husband to a confused, angry shell of his former self. But then, things start to happen. Strange noises at night, Ed’s voice on the radio taking part in a debate he couldn’t possibly have the capacity to engage in – all small things but things that make Lynn question and that lead her back to the sinister events that bought her and Ed together all those years ago.
To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the novel, which lays out a number of shocking revelations, dramatic twists and unexpected turns for the reader, providing a delicious series of dramas and pulling you breathlessly through until the end. Page-turner is an adage thrown at many a thriller but it really is applicable here – there’s a compulsion to the plot that propels the reader forwards and I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers found this to be a one-sitting read.
I also found there to be a subtlety to The Old You that was refreshing. At first, the book seems to proceed down fairly linear lines but then Voss throws in doubt when it transpires Lynn has secrets of her own. Add in more doubt with a mysterious death and the cloudiness that Ed’s diagnosis brings to his memories and his behaviour, and you’re dealing with a book that’s just packed to the rafters with slow reveals and tantalising glimpses of the dark revelations that follow.
That isn’t to say the book is perfect by any means. Personally I felt Ed came across as a little selfish and domineering from the off and I had to work quite hard to understand why Lynn would sacrifice so much for him and trust him so implicitly, even with the sections of backstory that Louise Voss includes. Lynn and Ed are both very complex characters – and this largely works in the book’s favour – but there were definitely points where they both wobbled into unlikability and, for me, this made it hard for me to connect with them at some points.
I also found one of the revelations at the end to be stretching the bounds of plausibility just a tad, which was a great shame in a book that, for the most part, succeeded in keeping its twists and turns on the believable side of jaw-dropping. I hasten to add that these are extremely minor niggles however and they didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of The Old You or the engagement I had with it’s myriad deceptions and revelations.
Original and compelling, The Old You is one the book equivalent of a matryoshka doll – you open up one element of the plot and out another one pops, gradually descending layer by layer and twist by twist until you reach its dark and shocking heart. It’s a real rollercoaster of a book, filled with deception and doubt, that will have you turning the pages and staying up well past your bedtime – all of which makes it a great addition to any domestic or psychological thriller fan’s bookshelf!
The Old You by Louise Voss is published by Orenda Books and is available now as a paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Amazon and Waterstones. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, as well as to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to take part in this tour.