Sunday 26 June 2016

Reviewed: Valentina by S.E. Lynes

TITLE: Valentina
PUBLISHER: Blackbird


Amazon - Goodreads

When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane...

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype through the recent onslaught of psychological thrillers which just keep on coming this year. There are so many of them that I’ve become almost a little bit bored with the repetition. Valentina is a psychological thriller like no other I’ve read – it’s different and fascinating, written with power and beauty in every line with a small, claustrophobic group of characters and tension that ratcheted up a notch with every chapter.

Shona’s loneliness screams out at you from the opening pages. Even early on when I still hadn’t made my mind up about her character, a part of me felt for her because she was so evidently lonely and desperately in need of a friend – another adult she could simply talk to. I found this book interesting from the start. It was quite slow to begin with and so I was expecting a more slow-burning thriller. Instead, that slower pace felt like the author luring me in, building up the loneliness and claustrophobia so by about 20% in the suspense was so strong I couldn’t read the pages quick enough. Valentina is definitely a devour-in-one-go kind of book.

Shona lives in a lovely cottage with her partner Mikey and their young child– or at least she would do if Mikey was ever there. As he’s always working, she doesn’t see him often and she is in desperate need of some adult company. She’s isolated and alone, and we can see how that is affecting her straight away. The way the author captures Shona’s lonely mind-set was very impactful and her struggle felt so real it felt like I could just slip into her shoes and feel her every worry.

When Valentina appears onto the scene, a woman who will laugh with Shona, listen to her fears, problems and everyday conversations, support her and have fun with her, mostly just interact with her, Shona is happy to have this new best friend in her life. But Valentina is a bit of an enigma. Things don’t add up with her character. With mixed messages and manipulation, Valentina is far from the ideal friend. The reader knows that, perhaps even Shona suspects that, but the fun was waiting to see if and when everything would come crashing down.

Whilst it’s hard to review this book in any detail without giving something away, reading Valentina is almost the opposite experience because there are words in the book, lines and short paragraphs which glared at me and suggested what was about to transpire. It really wasn’t a style of writing I was used to but I think that was part of this book’s charm for me. Knowing what was about to happen before Shona knew had me emotionally invested and mentally shouting and willing on her character to wise up. Being ‘in-the-know’ did not stop me from liking this book – it actually enhanced the reading experience.

The story in this book is engaging and compelling, the ending satisfying. But my favourite part of this book had to be the prose which was stunning and very effective. The author’s writing oozes with atmospheric tones, vivid descriptions and pure, haunting emotions that lure you into the story and have you hanging off her every word in an effortless manner that Valentina herself would be impressed with. This is a book I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since finishing it, and I anticipate it will still be on my mind for a long time to come.

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