When She Fell - Karen Cole
Published by Quercus, Thursday 10th November 2022
Writer dies in shockingly similar circumstances to a character in her latest novel? It's such a good idea for a book, I was surprised I hadn't read it already.
Karen Cole's latest novel, When She Fell, has everything I like in a thriller. Moody, atmospheric setting? Check. Brooding and handsome male love interest? Check. Too-impossible-to-be-true hook? Double check.
We follow Alex, an ambitious journalist who desperately needs a good scoop if she's to keep her job. It also appears that Alex reviews books in her spare time - and that's where Avery's final novel comes in.
Avery died after walking along cliffs during a storm, in a death that closely mirrors that of her final novel's protagonist. Spurred on by the potential article in the similarities, she travels to Cornwall and stays at the guest house of Avery's widowed husband, Joe.
The longer Alex spends at Avery's home, the more she suspects that not all is as it seems...
Cole quickly establishes the parallels between Avery's life and death, and those of her fictional counterpart. This hook kept me reading, but Cole wisely takes her time getting Alex to Cornwall and into the thick of the plot.
I find sometimes with high-concept thrillers that the protagonist gets swept along all to readily. There is an element of that with Alex, but Cole spends long enough building up our understanding of her, and her current circumstances, that the whole scenario of the novel feels plausible.
It was also really refreshing to read about a character who needs to take time to unwind... by reading. As someone who reads for pleasure and to de-stress all the time, I realised I rarely come across that in novels.
Overall I thought the opening was well paced and did a great job of establishing Alex as our central character.
Quite a character
On the character front, there are surprisingly few players and suspects in the novel. I didn't mind this, but I did find myself wondering, at times, whether Cole was going to pull a deus ex machina and produce a very minor character as key to the twist.
I can't say too much without giving away major spoilers, but the way relationships develop and the tensions between Alex and others feels very natural, if sometimes a little compressed in its timeline.
I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Alex and her sister, Athena. It gives us a much-needed voice of reason, and their sisterly conversations provide a great deal of insight into Alex, and her past.
Whoever wrote the blurb for When She Fell wasn't lying when they said it was twisty! I did find myself falling foul of a few of Cole's red herrings, and the high-stakes ending did have me up late and rushing to finish.
Again - I can say frustratingly little without giving the game away, but it was a very satisfactory ending. I would also say a lot of the things I found to be very convenient about the book were clearly deliberate by its end - always a strong way to end!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed When She Fell. I thought the setting and the characters were excellent, and it delivered on its high concept art-mirroring-life hook.
I've long been a fan of Quercus - the imprint that bought me Dr Ruth Galloway - and this is another smash hit from them.
I think When She Fell would make an excellent audible listen and I look forward to reading more from Karen Cole in future!
I was given a free advanced-reader copy of this book, in exchange for a review.