8 May 2017

Review #600: What Alice Knew by T. A. Cotterell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

----Leo Tolstoy

T.A. Cotterell, the British author, pens a mind blowing and extremely gripping psychological debut thriller, What Alice Knew that revolves around a portrait artist whose husband goes missing one night out of the blue, but when he comes back, their perfectly happy family life threatens to come apart and the portrait artist is left with no other choice but to protect her family at any cost.

PS: This is not like any other traditional pot-boiling thriller, instead it follows what happens after a crime is committed and how you need to cover that crime at any cost.


How far would you go to keep a secret?

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Alice, the portrait artist, one night while returning back from work, receives a call from her daughter that Ed, her husband and the father of her children, is not back home yet. Surprised Alice chooses to wait for her husband to return back home and when Ed returns back, things are not same like before, as he brings a storm with him. Alice's marriage, her trust and her faith, everything is put to test when Ed reveals a shocking truth about his whereabouts of that night, followed by more appalling secrets. Yet after hearing and analyzing everything, Alice chooses to protect her family, her husband above everything else, but how long can she protect a man who is not at all innocent in his acts?

Unlike the "been there done there" psychological thriller plots, this takes a very different, as in unique, turn with the story line. The author chooses a bold move to make his book stand out in the crowd, by letting his readers to follow the rush of covering up of a crime and protecting oneself from it, instead of the traditional rush of the whodunit. Although, I doubt, how many readers will accept this book with an open mind, as the story line will constantly challenge its readers to think hard about the characters' acts and deeds pretty much all the time.

Rarely I have ever came across such a thought provoking plot, where the main character is confronted to protect her family and to suppress her guilt of keeping quiet about her husband's revelation. The pressure and the tension builds up right from the very beginning itself, when the author chooses to spill the major twist about Ed and Ed's whereabouts from that night, yet the readers will be compelled to stay glued to the story line. The bizarre turn of events followed by the homecoming of Ed will constantly push both Alice as well as the readers to stay on Ed's side despite of the negative comments and press intrusion and a degrading public image of their family.

The author's writing style is brilliant, as the readers ill find it easy to comprehend with the story line. The dialogues are catchy and penned in an engaging manner to peak the interest of the readers. The pacing is really fast with an articulate prose that will not once let the readers to turn away their heads from this absorbing book.

The characters are extremely well developed with both realism and a bit of fantasy added to their demeanor. The main character, Alice, from whose point of view the whole story is narrated, is characterized with so many shades of layers which the author peels away bit-by-bit with the rising tension of the story line. The Alice, in the beginning, will come across as someone very ambitious about her career and caring towards her family, but gradually, this Alice turns bit annoying with all her doubts, and eventually, she turns quite wise in the end. Yes, Alice matures up and becomes someone thoughtful and calculative. Her back story gives a lot of depth to her character development and by the end of the book, the readers will feel like they know Alice by the back of their hand.

Art plays a major role in this story line. As per Alice, her portraits tell her the truth about the people she is capturing on her canvas, yet gradually with her husband's secrets, she feels overwhelmed and confused on whether art actually lets her paint the brutal truth behind any character, when she, herself, is trying to hide the truth.

It says, "Truth sets you free" but in this book, truth traps Alice into a dark and conniving world.

Verdict: A must read psycho thriller penned from a different angle that will only satisfy the reading buds of the fans of this genre.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
T. A. Cotterell read History of Art at Cambridge University. He worked in the City before resigning to become a freelance writer. He is now a writer and editor at the research house Redburn. He is married with three children and lives in Bristol.

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