Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.
Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man?
To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?
Two girls wandering in the woods ... two boys spying on them ... an encounter that changes all their lives for ever.
Twenty years later Claire and Joanne (Jo) have only blurred images of what really happened that day. What's sure is that Claire is immobilised in a wheelchair and Jo on psychiatric medication as a result of what took place in those woods. They never knew who the boys were and have never seen them since.
This all changes one day, when a man enters the bookshop where Jo works. Just a look at his eyes and flashes from the past are back in her mind. She's sure he's one of those boys. But who is he? Why did he come back? Why now? What does he want?
At the same time a mysterious hooded man is frightening the hell out of girls wandering alone on the unused railway tracks. This is a quiet town where nothing happens. Who is this hooded man? And again ... why now?
So, first of all, I liked the dark atmosphere and general setting of the book in the small town of Banktoun, where all people gossip about each other. Of all characters I particularly liked Sergeant Gray. He's probably the only likeable character in the book. The rest are all damaged or hateful individuals, full of resentment and guilt. I'm not sure whether I liked Jo or not. There were times when I empathized with her, but there were others when I thought she's just a selfish, self-centred nutcase.
Overall this is a well-thought out mystery plot with frequent twists and turns. I liked the short chapter layout. The time-frame shifting wasn't confusing at all. I liked the fact that certain chapters weren't numbered but grouped as 'The Woods' and 'The Boy'. That way I could know beforehand that we're going back in time. I think that's very clever and deserves credit. Never seen such a set up before.
However, in my opinion the story is overly stretched. There are numerous unnecessary passages that in my opinion serve only to distract the reader from the main plot and add nothing to the story. There were times when I felt annoyed and lost in such passages. There were also minor things that didn’t add up.
Also, I think I missed the whole point of the masked man. In my opinion this was another weak point. It started as quite an intriguing part of the story but I think that by the end it failed miserably to add any particular spark or thrill to the story.
The ending left certain questions unanswered. I'm sorry to say that I wasn’t entirely satisfied or convinced by it. In my opinion it was not very plausible.
Having said that, and keeping in mind that this is just the author's debut thriller, I think that it is quite good. This author has great potential and I'm sure that in the future she will award the reading community with many more great books.