Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

Review published on July 15, 2017.

Exquisite has been called a perfect literary thriller, but do not allow that to put you off, as it is so much better; this is a psychological thriller that will simply blow your mind. Exquisite really is an exquisite read, a smart and well-written thriller that keeps you turning the pages all the way to the end, with twists you cannot see coming until you have read them. It is hard to believe that this is a debut book from Sarah Stovell; it is a piece of work that belies that fact. This really is a winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Alice Dark is twenty-five-year-old English graduate from York University and she is currently existing in Brighton, between her bedsit and her boyfriend Jake’s flat share. Neither living the dream, Alice teaching English as a foreign language to students at a college and Jake, when sober and not high, selling the occasional painting. She can see no way, but is trying her hand at writing, and hopes she has a book inside that she can release on the world. She keeps returning to the poor relationship she has with her mother, whom she rarely saw, and did not care about.

Bo Luxton, a successful author, mother and wife, having escaped from Oxford, is now living in Grasmere in the Lake District. An ideal life for her children, plenty of fresh air, plenty of time with both parents where they can grow and not have to worry. Now that her husband, Gus, has retired she is the main breadwinner in the house, through the sales of her books. Fortunately, she is a popular author. This all hides the fact that she was a child runaway, escaped her mother and the life she had in a caravan.

Alice is invited to a creative writing week that Bo Luxton is running in Northumbria and they manage to encourage each other and find hidden depths. Bo also has a habit of collecting waifs and strays, and Alice is just the project she has been looking for. As they get closer and more personal, things take a turn for the worst, well for one of them anyway, or is it both of them?

The book has been sensibly split up in to sections, and begins with the thoughts of a woman who is in prison in Yorkshire, but we do not know who that is. We see the developing story from both Alice’s and Bo’s perspective as you are drawn in, and you begin to think you know what is happening, but there are a couple of curve balls waiting to be pitched at the reader.

This is a book that will leave the reader breathless, terrified and aghast at what two women really can do.

Paul Diggett 5/5

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell
Orenda Books 9781910633748 pbk Jun 2017

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