Thursday 27 October 2016

Thriller: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Penguin/Michael Joseph €16.99

Anne Cunningham

Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan.
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan.

Katie Browne is an ordinary teenager who has a row at home, packs a bag and runs away. But she doesn't return the next day, or when she runs out of money. Weeks have passed and there's no sign of her. The police are baffled. Margot Lewis is a teacher at Katie's school. She also moonlights as an agony aunt in the local newspaper, under the pseudonym of Amy.

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She receives a note in her 'Dear Amy' post from a girl who says she's been abducted and will soon be killed. Problem is, the letter is not from Katie Browne, but from a teenage girl called Bethan Avery, who went missing more than 20 years beforehand and who has never been found. The police dismiss the note as a sick joke, but Margot's not convinced. Enter Dr Martin Forrester, a forensic psychologist who specialises in cold cases of missing teenagers. Also enter Margot's soon-to-be-ex husband, who is having second thoughts about their impending divorce.

The "thick plottens" as my father used to say. Actually, the thick plottens from the start. It's a first-rate psychological thriller and an excellent debut. The plot is as gnarled as a twisted witch hazel tree. It's simply impossible to guess what's coming next. Written in highly-polished prose, Callaghan's plot is fast-paced enough to keep you on the roller-coaster and stylish enough to really impress. A peek at day-to-day life within the hallowed halls of Cambridge academia is an interesting backdrop, a bit like Inspector Morse in Oxford but without all those chips on all those shoulders.

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