Posted by kirstyes
About the Book
Ren Shephard is at a comfortable crossroads.
Enjoying the temporary freedom of her recent redundancy, her life revolves around her cherished friendships, sporadic communication with her unconventional parents and occasionally bailing her errant sister out of trouble.
However, when she signs up for an online writing course, she meets a group of people who will impact her in unimainable, unexpected and tragic ways.
When a gruesome murder takes place during one of the lessons, Ren becomes embroiled in a dangerous and terrifying sequence of events.
With the police stonewalling and Ren overtaken by a desperate urge to find the truth – and justice for the victim – she uncovers some shocking and mystifying evidence that sends her world spiralling out of control, whilst simultaneously placing her life in jeopardy.
About the Author
I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Writing; made it into my local newspaper, then spent the next couple of decades with my head buried in suspense fiction, absorbed in the work of others! In real life, I have been a College Lecturer for many years, alongside roles with various examination boards: marking, moderating, assessing and undertaking a host of other interesting duties.
During lockdown, I spent a reasonable amount of time in a virtual classroom: teaching, training, taking part in meetings…and the list goes on. With that in mind, I chose to base my novel around the world of virtual learning – where something deviant occurs online, and at the same time, throw a bit of family drama into the mix.
My debut novel (a.k.a My Lockdown Project) was written whilst navigating my teenage sons through online schooling; stopping my maverick husband from DIY-ing the house to death, and trying to negotiate a balance between comfort eating and regular 8km walks….I made it to 12km on one occasion! Needless to say, my hobbies are: reading, snacking, walking – and I simply adore my huge, raucous family!
What I Thought
I was initially drawn to this story by the idea of someone witnessing a murder during an online creative writing course and the premise worked very well. This reminded me a little of The Girl on the Train and it was so pacy I definitely didn’t want to put it down.
I have to admit that the ending was not quite how I would have preferred it to conclude – only because I liked the alternative option also laid out. Main character Ren – whose point of view the story is told from – did have quite an extensive vocabulary that had me reaching for a dictionary on occasion – but then again she is a wannabe writer. There was also a slightly out of date reference to CRB checks instead of DBS but I’m guessing I only know that because of my job.
Ren discovers during the course of the story that she wants to write for teeenagers and therefore I can’t decide if the author’s ‘I let out the breath I hadn’t realised I had been holding’ was an ironic homage to this 😉. These were the slight issues that took me out of the story temporarily but otherwise I really enjoyed it.
I thought the characters and their relationships were well developed.
Ren and her troubled sister Faye and wanderlust parents gave a nice balance and provided relevant backstory for Ren’s stubborn independent go getting attitude.
I enjoyed the scenes with her friends Lex and Kizzy and would have been happy to read more with them and ex boyfriend Denny definitely came in handy as the investigation progressed.
Her fellow writing group members provide sources of creepiness, romance and intrigue but can Ren determine fact from fiction when it comes to them?
The plot kept me guessing and brought the reader along with Ren at every turn. This is an assured thriller and I would definitely read another book by this author.
Do read on for a guest post from the author giving us more insight into main character Ren.
Most interesting facts about my main protagonist
Serendipity Shephard. We’d all love a best friend like her! Loyal, protective, fun-loving, level-headed, in everyday situations, and – for the most part – positive.
Ren’s loyalty is most evident in her relationship with her best friends, Lex and Kizzy, who mean the world to her, and she is happiest when in their company. A friendship formed in their heady university days, they have since followed different pathways but remain close and supportive of each other. Ren’s loyalty extends to her underserving sister who has been a thorn in Ren’s side for much of their adult lives. When most would have given up and cut ties, Ren, (exasperated though she is) battles on in her sister’s defence. But how far can she be pushed?
Ren has parent issues. Her nonconformist parents, Al and Angie, have made no secret of the fact that her very existence was neither planned nor favourably received. Her ‘chance’ conception was a hindrance which they felt they had no choice but to embrace. Unsurprisingly, the relationship Ren has with them is fractured and sporadic. Al and Angie exist in their own bubble, often detached from anything that happens outside of their world. Ren has never felt there is adequate space for anyone to penetrate their lives. The chasm between them is punctuated by their random communication, often consisting of Ren listening to animated and lengthy anecdotes of their adventures in Southern Asia. Ren is at a point in her life where she no longer allows their selfishness to affect her.
Ren had a nomadic childhood, having spent many years moving from place to place with her adventure-seeking parents. Although she has no memory of this, she spent the first two years of her life in Kuala Terengganu, a small fishing port in Northeast Malaysia; this followed by many homes across London. It was a long time before Ren established any solid roots or lasting friendships – partly why she places such high value on her relationship with Lex and Kizzy.
Ren doesn’t allow life’s unpredictable challenges to faze her: redundancy, a relationship breakdown. She has faced both head-on in recent times and has approached each incident with the same positive spirit: onwards and upwards.
When faced with an unspeakable and harrowing situation, there is no telling which mode will kick in – fight or flight. Ren proves herself to be impulsive and audacious when she witnesses a gruesome attack online. She could never have envisaged herself in such a random and perilous predicament, but her tenacity and determination to get to the truth are endearing and commendable. She mentions early on in her story that she can be a ‘fierce lioness’ when she wants to be, and this is wholly demonstrated in her unyielding and indefatigable search for the truth. Her iron will isfundamentally brought to the fore in her story, where she is tested to the extreme. Her attempts to get to the truth, irrespective of the danger she is never far from, presents a side to Ren that is totally at odds with her regular, structured existence.
Thanks to Bee at Kaleidoscopic Tours for arranging a gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review. Do check out the rest of the blog tour by following the hashtag #ISawWhatHeDid.