Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Publisher - HarperCollins

Published - Out Now

Price - £12.99 hardback

Someone is living a lie…but who?

Is it Lisa? Haunted by a tragic past, all Lisa wants is a quiet life with her daughter, Ava. And when she meets a new man, things seem to be falling into place. But Lisa is hiding a secret so momentous it could shatter her entire world…

Is it Ava? When sixteen-year-old Ava saves a young boy’s life she becomes a local hero. But never in a million years could she have anticipated the fallout of her actions…

Is it Marilyn? Marilyn has the perfect life. Her husband, her job, her house – she seems to have it all. But she could never admit to her best friend Lisa the lies she tells herself to get through the day…

One moment will change these three women’s lives forever. And the secrets they’ve been keeping could destroy them all.

Last year the excellent Sarah Pinborough had an international best seller with Behind Her Eyes and yes THAT ending. This year the tagline for this super-smart thriller could be #WTFthatplot as the reader arrives in a small very middle-class town and watches the lives of three women completely shatter generally while taking a deep breath as revelations finally surface and lives end up on the line.

If you know Pinborough for her horror stories you may initially think it is all looking very well …normal. Shy but competent Lisa has just got herself the employment contract of a lifetime for her firm and a handsome millionaire who wants to discuss things over dinner. Her daughter is on the elite swimming team and has a handsome boyfriend while Marilyn is the super-smart protective best friend anyone would want to protect you from the office politics and who would take you the pub when you need a drink. But while this story isn’t supernatural we all know that once everyone is happy this rarely lasts in a drama slowly but surely, we notice things aren’t quite adding up.

Lisa is not just your standard single mother she is super worried about Ava vanishing from sight and avoids pictures and social media. Ava while from outside is a confident girl is secretly finding the cusp of being an adult hard work with a demanding boyfriend and an online friend who really knows her much better than her mum or mates. Marilyn never wants to allow guests home anymore and is always careful what she says. The reader bounces from the heads of each character in sequence and we realise each character is hiding something. No one wants to share secrets with their closest friends and that may be dangerous…

At this point I’m going to move away from giving you much more as this dear reader is really best taken as a voyage of discovery. This is a world where an abandoned soaked child’s toy can be terrifying and where just when you think you’ve been given all the clues (and you really have!) you’ll realise that you have come to the completely wrong conclusion as to the type of story this is and then just one more time for good measure and then one more for luck! You’ll find your assumptions challenged and your sense of ethics questioned. A mirror is held up to society and we are asked exactly what is evil? How is it created? Can you be forgiven for the worst things you’ve done? Everyone has secrets and as a reader you’re going to have to try and sift them all out.

The writing is excellent, and the scenes of office-politics, college cliques and council estates are pitch perfect. You understand these characters even if at times you cannot possibly want to be their friends any longer. Its very much about trust and when is that being abused. A run of the mill thriller would simply be about clues and red herrings but it’s the social commentary that makes this stand out. Its got a lot to say about the personas we adopt and how society is quicker to condemn rather than understand; particularly based on the status someone is at any time. The tension is twisted chapter by chapter until the darkness erupts to a very memorable and violent conclusion.

It’s a short review because I really don’t want to spoil you, but this is the type of story where I sat down to read it and was cursing having to put it halfway down for the night because I needed work in the morning! Its that good and its one of those book journeys you do not want to miss out on while at the same time it will make you look at certain events in a way that may make you uncomfortable to realise your own prejudices colour your judgement. Very much one to haunt you long after the final page is turned.