Saturday 21 September 2019

Heart-stopping Pinborough

Crime: Cross Her Heart, Sarah Pinborough, Harper Collins, €18.20

Cross her Heart
Cross her Heart

Anne Marie Scanlon

Although Behind Her Eyes wasn't Sarah Pinborough's first novel, it was the breakout hit that made hers a familiar name. Cross Her Heart, her much anticipated follow-up, suffers a bit from 'that difficult second album' syndrome. This book is narrated from three perspectives. Lisa is a single mum not unlike Louise in Behind Her Eyes, a wimp who hasn't had a date in forever. Lisa's 16-year-old daughter, Ava, and her best friend, Marilyn, provide the other points of view.

After the furious page-turning of Behind Her Eyes, the first section of the Cross Her Heart is a slog. Lisa is so listless it's hard to care about her. Ava is a mardy teen in love with a mystery man online. You don't need a pack of tarot cards to see where this storyline is leading. In true teen fashion, Ava thinks she's sophisticated and clued-in, she knows about online predators but also knows her chap isn't one of them. Ava seems younger than her years - for example, when she suspects she may be pregnant she consoles herself thinking "it's the summer holidays. If I need an abortion, I can do it while mum's at work. She'll never know". Like Ava, Marilyn is also hiding a secret. In public she appears to have a charmed life but in reality is regularly beaten up by her abusive husband Richard.

Throughout the first part of the book there are hints about Lisa's past but when her secret is revealed it is a huge shock and the pace of the story picks up accordingly. While some plot points are hard to credit (Marilyn's relationship with Simon, a rich businessman, and indeed, Simon's romantic interest in Lisa) they don't matter. Pinborough is back in proper 'ripping yarn' territory with plenty of red herrings and twists.

Unlike the shock twist at the end of Behind Her Eyes I did guess this one, but not until it was almost revealed. Despite that, it is still a fantastic twist and will no doubt astonish many readers. Even if Pinborough hasn't outdone her previous book she is still streets ahead of many contemporary Grip Lit authors.

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