Friday 2 September 2016

Reviewed: Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote

TITLE: Undertow
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Heathcote

PUBLICATION DATE: September 22, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

My husband's lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them . . . until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of 'second wife'. She knows she'll always live in the shadow of another woman - not Tom's first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night. But Carmen can overlook her husband's dead mistress . . . until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killed her.

Undertow is an all-consuming, incredibly gripping psychological tale that had me reading in the middle of the night, eager to get to the bottom of the twisted mystery. As soon as I saw the blurb for Undertow, this was a book I was desperate to read and it didn’t let me down one bit.

Carmen is married to lawyer Tom. Tom’s previous marriage to Laura, which saw them have three kids, ended when he had an affair with journalist Zena. Not long after Tom and Zena got together officially, Zena is discovered to have drowned, but her death still remains a talking point amongst locals who are suspicious of Tom. When a teenager on the train unwittingly suggests to Carmen that Tom could be responsible for Zena’s death, she becomes paranoid and obsessed with finding out what really happened to Zena. In truth, I became pretty obsessed with finding out the truth too, and though I cringed at some of Carmen’s actions, I was desperate for her to get to the bottom of things so we could discover what really happened on the day Zena died.

The main characters in Undertow were really interesting to me in that I liked them all at certain points and disliked them all at others. There’s a guess factor about this book that I think had me supportive of some of the characters one minute and then distrusting of them the next. I liked all the suspicions and doubts and how each character was very flawed – this lured me into the story and had me quickly turning the pages to discover more.

I’m not sure that the author’s writing style will be for everyone. But personally I loved it. I loved all the added, little details we receive about so many aspects of the story and its characters– from clothing to location to seemingly innocent conversations. The way the author writes had me second-guessing everything, reading too much into certain parts and seeing past something which later became relevant. The style of writing had me engrossed and feeling, not just tension, but excited to read on and discover more. As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I couldn’t wait to get to the end and hopefully, potentially have figured everything out. About halfway through, I had a theory which turned out to be about half right, but I still needed answers!

I really did struggle to put this book down and return to my own life. I just didn’t want to. But the time between finishing this book and writing my review had me questioning some of the things which had happened during Undertow. Parts of this book do appear a bit contrived, such as how easy Carmen found it to get access to or answers from strangers. She must have been some journalist to find things so easy, and yet there were things she should have known in that job role which seemed to elude her. There were other things, mostly events or people that were mentioned, that I would have liked to have seen more resolved come the end of the story. Members of Carmen’s family in particular appeared to be forgotten a bit. However, again neither of these points really felt relevant when reading Undertow because I was so wrapped up in the story. Overall, I found Undertow to be a memorable, riveting read which was both uncomfortable to read and highly addictive.

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