“I thought she was our friend. I thought she was trying to help us.”
After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.
When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door; everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world.
But when questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?
As I mentioned in my recent review of The Silent Patient, I’ve been starting to suffer from thriller fatigue recently. The genre has, for me at least, begun to feel a little over-saturated and, whilst there’s some great writing out there, there seems less that’s unique in terms of premise or twists.
So it’s a big thank you very much to Lauren North for restoring my faith with her satisfyingly intriguing debut psychological suspense novel, The Perfect Betrayal!
Newly widowed Tess is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Struggling with overwhelming grief, her life is further complicated by the secrets that her husband Mark seems to have been keeping from her. Taking comfort in hearing Mark’s voice and rejecting the anti-depressants prescribed by her doctor, the only thing keeping Tess functioning is her love for her son Jamie.
So when grief counsellor Shelley knocks on the door, it’s like a light shining through the darkness for Tess. Having experienced the loss of her own son, Shelley offers comfort and sympathy, whilst helping Tess to organise the debris left in the wake of Mark’s death. But who really is Shelley? And why is she so interested in Jamie?
To say anything more about the plot would be to give away too much, but I have to say that the twist at the end of this book is both heart-rending and powerful. It’s a twist that completely re-casts the book you think you’ve been reading and causes you to re-evaluate everything that you thought you knew about the characters – definitely one of the best endings I’ve read for a good long while
There’s also wonderful depth to Tess’ character, offering a complex and multifaceted portrayal of grief and mental illness. Yes, Tess comes across as irrational, paranoid and difficult but she’s also grieving and her grief is all-encompassing. It makes her very relatable and this all adds to the emotional punch when the real truth is revealed.
Some of the other characters were, for me, a little less successful. Without giving spoilers, there’s one fairly major character who practically screams villain in every action they take. And some of the more minor characters felt like set-dressing, without any real sense of why they were in the book.
And I do think that the plot is overly complex at times – I didn’t think the mysteries surrounding Mark’s work, or the mysterious telephone calls that Tess receives, added anything to the book other than extraneous characters. The central story of Tess, Shelley and Jamie was, for me, strong enough to stand on its own without the unnecessary diversions.
This is a particular shame because North’s writing is just SO GOOD. There’s a real flow and style to her writing that is rare for the genre, and the central plot is so cleverly crafted that it keeps the pace and tension high even in the slower moments. It’s writing that stirs up the emotions, bringing the reader so totally into Tess’ world that, at times, I felt like a voyeur spying on the intense rawness of her grief.
As a psychological suspense though, The Perfect Betrayal really did keep me guessing until the very end. With its heart-rending evocation of grief and a main character that only the most stone-hearted of readers will fail to feel compassion for, North has written an impressive debut and set the bar very high for her follow up! Psychological thriller fans are in for a treat, and for those like me who were feeling fatigued, Lauren Noth has done a brilliant job of showing that there’s life in the genre yet.
The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North, published by Corgi, is available now as an ebook and is published in paperback on 27 June 2019. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The tour continues until 23 March 2019 so please do check out the other stops for more reviews, extracts and more!