To The Edge of Shadows by Joanne Graham

A character driven psychological drama can be a lovely thing.

Fourteen-year old Sarah woke in a hospital bed not knowing where she was or what had happened. She would learn that there had been a car accident, that her father and her sister had been killed. She remembered nothing, because she had sustained serious head injuries that has left her brain damaged.


Her father’s younger sister, Leah, took Sarah in and supported her wonderfully well, but Sarah’s fears and the continuing unreliability of her memories made life difficult.

Sarah tried to be independent she had a legacy from her father, enough to buy a flat, and she wanted to give back to Leah some of the freedom that she had given up when she had needed her.

It was a brave step.

Sarah didn’t know that there was someone, close by, who wished her harm.

Ellie had survived an terrible childhood; her mother had been cruel and her father, not seeing, or maybe not wanting to see, what was happening had left. How she resented Sarah, who had been able to forget.

It wasn’t clear who she was, but I saw possibilities ….

There were two things that made the story sing.

The characters were so well drawn and I found it so easy to be drawn into their stories and to care. Everything – their relationships, their actions, their emotions – felt so real.

The writing was lovely: insightful and understated.

I was held in the moment and so when the twist, the revelation, came I was taken by surprise. Had I thought about it I suspect I would have worked it out. The clues were there, but I was too caught up with the story to stop to try to work things out.

I’m deliberately not saying too much about the plot, but I will say that wasn’t the only twist.

In the end I had to pause to work out how the pieces fitted together. I think that there was one too many piece, and that simpler might have been better. Ultimately, I think that they did fit together, but I don’t want to analyse the story too much, because I suspect there were inconsistencies.

I didn’t want to find anything like that because there was too much about this book that I liked, and because I suspect that the concerns I had came from trying a little too hard, making a little more story where there was no need.

I liked the was the story grew,  from a story of family relationships into a story of suspense; and the way that it drew in serious subjects – abuse, therapy, identity – quite naturally.

I felt for Sarah, as she struggled to work out what was going on, and she began to question her sanity. And I felt for Ellie as she struggled with painful memories; the writing there was so beautifully measured, and it caught exactly the right details.

In the end I have to say that this is a wonderful human story; and that, two novels in, I think Joanne Graham has the potential to write something rather special one day.

Lacey’s House by Joanne Graham

untitledThis is the moving and thought-provoking story of two women, both alone in the world, whose paths through life cross.

Lacey Carmichael had lived in the same village all her life but she wasn’t the part of the community. Far from it. She was known as the mad woman, the witch, and kept at arm’s length. Her only friend was her next door neighbour, but he died. Lacey was accused of his murder and, though the police were quick to clear her of suspicion, her neighbours weren’t so sure.

Rachel Moore moved into the house next door. She’d had a difficult time, she needed a change, and as she was an freelance artist and could work anywhere, she decided to move to the country.

Rachel met Lacey before she heard what the neighbours had to say about her, and a friendship grew between them.

The story moved back and forth between them.

Rachel  was very rational, very self aware, and her first person narrative reflected that. But Lacey was different. I wondered of she had mental health issues, or if she was in the early stages of dementia, and her third person narrative left me the space to wonder exactly who she was. That was very clever writing.

I was pulled into each woman’s story. I cared, and I wanted to know. Because they were beautifully realised, utterly believable characters. And because there was always something to think about, I could never quite predict just how events would play out.

Some themes echoed across both stories, but they were distinctive. Lacey and Rachel came from different generations, they had grown up in different worlds, and their experiences and attitudes reflected that.

It was difficult to believe that Lacey had endured through the darkest moments of her life, but sadly what had happened to her – and what became of her – was utterly credible.

I feared that the story was going to turn back to the death at the beginning, and questions about Lacey’s culpability, but it didn’t. It went somewhere much more interesting.

Rachel discovered something that contradicted things that Lacey had told her, but there was a final – very clever – twist, and she began to understand.

That brought a very well constructed plot to a close.

There were one or two points I might have questioned, but I didn’t, because this book was pitch perfect emotionally .

And it’s one of those books that is very difficult to write about without giving too much away, particular because the way that the story evolves is not as obvious as it may appear. If at any point you’ve thought ‘I know’ it is quite probable that you don’t, and that what did happen is rather more interesting.

It’s definitely worth finding out what did happen, and meeting Rachel and Lacey, first hand.

I’d say that it is an accomplished debut novel, and that Joanne Graham is an author worth watching.