Sunday, January 27, 2019

What We Did

What We Did by Christobel Kent
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2/5/19
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780374288754

What We Did by Christobel Kent is a recommended psychological study with some aspects of a thriller.

Bridget Webster has kept the abuse the occurred in her past a secret from everyone and keeps a tight control over her emotions and reactions. Now she's happily married to Matt and they have a teenage son, Finn. Matt works in IT at Rose Hill University and she owns a women's clothing boutique in town. When her childhood violin teacher, Anthony Carmichael, shows up in her shop with a young teen he wants to buy a dress for, Bridget can barely keep her emotions under control. When Carmichael later returns, having recognized Bridget after all these years, the resulting actions seem inevitable and require even more subterfuge on Bridget's part. Then Bridget's sister Carrie shows up and becomes involved in the situation.

At the same time reporter Gillian "Gill" Lawson has come to town to secretly seek out Carmichael. She has been following him for years with the certainty that he is a long-time pedophile who has somehow escaped being caught and she wants to finally bring an end to his secret reign of terror. She recognizes Bridget as someone who may have been one of his early victims, but having a reporter snooping around is not what Bridget needs right now.

This is a slow-paced novel that creates suspense through Bridget slowly revealing more information and insight about the secrets in her past and why that would lead her to currently do what she did. Although there is a violent reaction which leads to a pro-long period of trying to cover up the results of her action, the incident loses its shocking power due to the extended coverage of the story line. After this point any suspense or tension is created through Gill's investigation and how odd both Bridget and Matt are acting. The ending is a surprise that I didn't see coming.

What We Did, while it has its moments when it is in the territory of a thriller, is at heart more of a character study. As Bridget reveals more information about her past and the inner torment she endures, empathy for her will increase. Based on what is revealed in her backstory, one does wonder why a case as severe and emotionally fraught as hers didn't come to the attention of others earlier. The scenes between her and Matt when they both are leaving a plethora of things unsaid also create tension.

The writing is certainly good. As I mentioned, the pro-longed cover-up and the many things left unsaid by all the characters results in depleting much of the immediacy of the tension and suspense. The exception is the ending when an increased pace and sense of urgency amplifies the tension and all the plot elements come together.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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