The cover caught my eye, the title intrigued me, and when I picked up the book I and started reading I realised that I would have to carry on and see the story through to the end.
There was a dual narrative, each focusing on one woman, each told in the third person, and each told in such a way that I might have been hearing about events from someone who knew both women and was eager to prove that she was in the know. And that would have been quite possible, because the two women worked together.
Kathy was a magazine editor, with a handsome and successful new husband, and a lovely new baby boy, coming back to work after a period of maternity leave. She had everything, but she was still learning how to manage all of the different roles, and there was someone who didn’t want her to succeed.
Heja was the newest member of Kathy’s team and she saw everything. She was cool, she wad capable, and she was not the least bit sympathetic. Of course she was ambitious, she wanted Kathy’s job, but there was more to it than that.
The reason for Heja’s fixation became clear quite early in the story, but the background, the full story, was slower to emerge. I never came to like her, but I did feel for her, and I came to understand why she did the things that she did.
There were some contrivances needed to make her story work, and though one or two of them stretched credulity, the story was strong enough for me to be able to accept them.
My sympathies were with Kathy, who I liked from the start; she made mistakes, and there were times when she behaved badly, but that was understandable, given what happened. She was a real, fallible, three-dimensional human being.
A real woman in a real world – even when on a holiday to Cornwall she visited places and walked streets that I know.
The chapters are short and I found it very easy to read quickly. There was a difference in style for each subject, and each a style that suited the subject. Kathy was warm and chaotic, while Heja was always controlled, and always in control. The story got closer to Kathy, and that worked well for the storyteller, but it was right for the characters too. And it was very clever writing.
Every bit of the story grew out of the characters, and the character were all the products of their pasts.
It was fascinating watching Kathy’s marriage come under strain. She and her husband were very different, and though opposites had attracted they had very different ideas about family life, about the significance of certain events. The consequence, maybe, of meeting, falling pregnant, and marrying very quickly. Kathy came to think that she didn’t really know the man she had married very well at all.
I watched her at work too, where the watchful concern of her secretary was a nice counter-balance to Heja’s machinations. Some women are competive and judgemental; others are supportive..
This is as much a study of lives as it is a story of suspense.
The pace built steadily, the story was beautifully controlled, and I was compelled to read, to find out how things would play out.
There was, of course, a dramatic conclusion.
Heja’s story rushed to its resolution a little too quickly, but the psychology was right. And the ending of Kathy’s story was exactly right.
The book as a whole worked; and so I’ll definitely be picking up whatever Jane Lythell writes next.