CONCEPT CRIME: NEW BOOKS BY MEGAN GOLDIN AND CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD
Early August sees the release of two clever, concept crime novels by Megan Goldin and Catherine Ryan Howard.
Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake (Penguin, 16 August 2022) has that sort of clever opening hook that is guaranteed to draw you in and keep you reading.
“Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers the door and claims to be living in her apartment. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing. In its place is a bloodstained knife. Her hands are covered in scribbled messages, like graffiti, on her skin: STAY AWAKE.”
It very quickly comes clear that Liv has no memory of the last two years. The New York office where she used to work thinks she has been in London for the past two years and she has no idea why her best friend and her boyfriend are not picking up their phones. When Liv catches a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. Suddenly Liv is on the run from the police and the one person who knows what is going on.
Stay Awake is a smart, slick thriller that grabs your attention and keeps you reading. Megan keeps Liv’s growing panic under control and sensible, and it is nicely offset by the calm and methodical police detectives who are investigating the murder that Liv saw on the news bulletin. There are also well staged flashbacks to what actually happened two years ago. This shifting viewpoint and dual timeline is easy to follow, and Megan cleverly uses it to ground the novel and keep the suspense at a high level.
The mystery as to why Liv has lost her memory and the actual events from two years ago is nicely handled and Megan keeps the reader guessing through several twists and some well staged reveals. Liv is engaging character caught up in a confusing situation, but the character I really liked is the police detective Darcy Halliday. She is a nuanced and interesting character, who has a realistic working relationship with her partner. New York city also emerges as a character in the book, and Megan uses it well to enhance Liv’s feeling of dis-orientation and loneliness.
The story is basically set over the course of a single day, and the plot zips along at a good pace that will have you keenly turning the pages. A highly entertaining read!
Four and a half stars out of five for sheer enjoyment!
Stay Awake is released in Australia on 16 August 2022. It is released in the United States, with a different cover (below), on 9 August 2022 and in the United Kingdom on 18 August 2022.
Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book for review.
There is also a sense of rising panic and some unreliable narration in Catherine Ryan Howard’s thrilling Run Time (Corvus, 18 August 2022).
A psychological horror movie, Final Draft, is being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere, in the wintry wilds of West Cork. At the very last moment, down-at-her-heels, former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actress. She hopes that this opportunity will be her big break. She also knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set. But something isn’t quite right about Final Draft. Strange events keep happening, and when the events in the script start to happen in real life, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page.
Catherine is very good at generating suspense without resorting to gratuitous violence or bloodshed, and there are some genuinely creepy moments in the first half of the book. The story moves along at a good pace and there is plenty of mystery around what is happening and Adele’s past. The parallel unfolding of the script and the real life events haunting Adele is well handled, and both are interesting. The location where the film is being shot is also well limned and it adds plenty of eerie atmosphere to the book.
It is not difficult to suspect where the story may be going, but Catherine introduces some good twists and a very unexpected development towards the end. Adele’s sense of panic and her admitted unreliability as a narrator is also well handled, and adds to the uncertainty.
Overall, I really enjoyed Run Time. There is some flatness around the final ending, but this does not significantly detract from story or the good sense of unease that Catherine builds up over the course of the book.
Four stars out of five!
Run Time is released in Australia on 18 August 2022 and in the United Kingdom on 11 August 2022.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an earlier copy of the book for review.