My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved Rachel Abbot’s thriller, The Back Road (Thomas & Mercer 2013). It’s the story of two girls (Ellie and Leo) thrown together as siblings of a polygamist father. When Leo’s mom dies, Ellie’s mom is forced to raise both girls which she does in Leo’s case with hate and anger, an attitude that gets even worse when the Dad disappears. Leo leaves as soon as she can manage it, returning to the house only after her step mother’s death. Both sisters attempt to move on, but are haunted by a miasma of memories. Life refuses to be easy for them. By Chapter One, we know Ellie is being stalked by a man who thinks she loves him, His unwanted attentions begin to unravel the carefully constructed worlds both girls have created to protect themselves from their past.
The story has lots of damaged good people, intrigue, the de rigeur damaged ex-cop and woman-who-swears-off-men-who-falls-for-handsome-ex-cop. It has enough sub-plots to keep even the most distractable reader entertained.
But it took me a while to get to ‘love it’. It starts powerfully, but depressing, with two unnamed girls hiding in a closet while their mum takes care of business in the bedroom. When one sister starts choking, the other decides it’s better they are discovered than one of them dies. The next scene is with Ellie, paralyzed with fear over her stalker. Do you see what I mean? Depressing, all of it. But, Rachel Abbot is a powerful writer, deft with words and a master at unpeeling the plot little by little. I kept reading. Soon, around page 100, despite my natural misgivings about change and new authors, I’d reached that literary tipping point where you either love a book or toss it. I was hooked and remained so for the balance of the 470 pages.
Not to say Rachel Abbot was perfect in her delivery. The setting is Britain, but too often the character’s voices are decidedly American. I just finished Val McDermid’s Tony Hill series and fell in love with Brit speak and their colloquialisms. Rachel Abbot has enough to tell the story, but not enough to keep me in the setting. And one other nit-pick: Abbot spends a bit too much time summarizing past plot points. She’s afraid we readers will forget something important, but we won’t, at least not enough to justify the constant retelling. That’s what earned it 4 instead of 5 stars. The reviews noticeably slowed the plot down, something that isn’t good in a thriller.
That’s it, though. Believe me, I’ll be reading the rest of her books. You should too.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a weekly columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.