WAKE (2022) by Shelley Burr

Nineteen years ago, Evelyn McCreery disappeared, vanished from the family farm – no tyre tracks, no footprints, just vanished without trace. Everyone has their theory as to the truth behind her disappearance, most of those theories involving her sister Mina. Now living along on the same farm, she is living the life of a near-recluse – until Lane, a private investigator appears.

Convinced that he can find the truth about what happened, although motivated in part by the huge reward, Lane is reluctant to take no for an answer, just as reluctant as Mina is to trust him. As he begins to get closer to the truth, it seems that his obsession with finding the truth might prove deadly for them both.

This is a hard book to write a constructive review for. On the one hand, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. On the other, I can see why others would. So let’s try and address why that is.

Primarily, this is a thriller where the surprises consist of “unexpected” actions that the protagonists take, rather than the antagonists – indeed, it takes an age for us to see any significant actions of the antagonist – and you have to wonder, from a plot point of view, if the choices being made are merely to make the plot happen, rather than being for character reasons. Given that for the majority of the book we are sitting on Lane and/or Mina’s shoulder, at least one revelation felt like a bit of a cheat. Admittedly, I suppose with a re-read, I might see how the author cleverly danced around the truth in a Carr-ian way, but I’m not desperately inclined to re-read this.

But on the other hand, fans of psychological thrillers or books like The Dry, might well enjoy this book a lot. The author takes a lot of time working on the characters, and, apart from the above revelation aside, the characterisation is engrossing and believable. The ending is rather shocking (rather than surprising in my book) but as a whole, this is more of a character piece than the sort of of mystery-thriller than particularly appeals to me. There’s every chance that this is “just me” though, as WAKE was the winner of the 2019 CWA Debut Dagger…

Wake is out now in ebook and hardback. Many thanks for the review e-copy.

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