Having read several raving five-star reviews I was rather pleased to find this book on the library shelf. There is nothing I like more for the relaxing part of my reading than a good psychological suspense and so far this year they seem to be few and far between. I had high hopes!
The story begins with a short prologue telling of a murder and an excerpt from a trial transcript. From these the reader knows exactly who the bad guy is and what he is capable of.
The first person narrative is confusing at the start because it jumps very quickly (sometimes less than a page) between two time periods - 2003 & 2007 - but once I became used to it I felt it worked well at keeping the pace fast and building the suspense although the suspense would have doubled if I hadn't had the information from the prologues.
2003 is the Before - Cathy is a twenty-something with a good job and good friends. She has also been single long enough to know a good catch when she sees one and Lee is gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous.
2007 is the After - four years after Cathy discovered the dark,controlling side of Lee and suffered horribly at his hands. Always fearful for her safety she works but has no social life. She suffers from OCD which manifests in compulsive security checks. She's completely alone........until a nice young man moves into the flat upstairs.
I found it difficult to relate to the Before Cathy. I don't understand why an intelligent young woman would want to spend her evenings pubbing, clubbing, binge drinking, swearing, vomiting on public pavements and sleeping with anyone and everyone. Nor do I particularly want to read about it - a lifestyle chosen by the author because it would highlight how very different the After Cathy is, perhaps.
As the story of her abusive relationship unfolds it would have been impossible not to feel for Cathy. The confusion and fear, the terrible sense of being isolated and helpless when her friends desert her are heartbreaking. She emerges from the experience a different person, alone , trusting no one and unable to control the OCD. The author does a superb job portraying a woman caught in the cycle and aftermath of abuse .
I didn't like that about half-way through it began very repetitive, alternating between descriptions of endless sexual encounters and the security checks. Repetition is boring and the time would have been better spent on exploring Cathy's friendship with Sylvia and why she acted as she did.
So, I'm in the minority with my opinion on this one. Parts of it are very good but it had weaknesses that for me prevented it from being anywhere close to a 5 Star read.