Try Not to Breathe
I love stories about cold cases. It’s just comforting to know that even if evil gets away with something for a while, good always triumphs. This is a story of how solving a fifteen year-old cold case helps a reporter find herself again. It’s an intriguing tale that I found hard to put down.
Once on the fast track to go great places, Alex Dale now finds herself skirting the thin ice that sits right on top of rock bottom. She’s a functional alcoholic and it is taking all she has and all she is to keep the word functional in that brief description. Her drinking has already caused a divorce from a man she still desperately loves and has forced her to go from being a full-time journalist at the Sunday Times to a freelance one. It has isolated her completely and the bottle is now her only friend. And then she meets Amy.
Alex’s assignment is simple – interview a doctor working on innovative means of communication with patients in a vegetative state. But Alex hadn’t expected to run into her there. Amy Stevens. The girl who had been the center of a media storm fifteen years ago. Then just fifteen years old, Amy had been the victim of a vicious, violent assault which had left her barely clinging to life. Her mother had committed suicide a year later when it seemed Amy would never recover from her catatonic state. Amy’s story had made headlines, news specials, and been the tale parents told to control wayward young girls for years. But her assailant has never been found.
The same age as the lovely girl lying still in the bed Alex feels a kinship with Amy. And a curiosity. Just who the hell caused all this suffering? Who left Amy with no next of kin as her mom broke under the pressure and her step-father went into hiding after being under suspicion? It is that thin thread of intrigue that inspires Alex as she slowly begins to recreate the last days of Amy’s life. But will she find salvation for either of them at the end of the trail or does something far more sinister await them?
Told in alternating points of view and flashing from past to present and back again, this is the gripping story of two women trying to come to terms with who they are.
First we meet young, vibrant Amy. A girl on the cusp of womanhood, she is getting tired of her too sweet boyfriend who can make out for hours but never seems to want to go to the next level. Her fascination with “losing it” has led her to her “secret”. Older, wiser and far more sensual than any sweet school-boy, he is all she can think of.
Alex’s alcoholism has cost her control of her sexuality. When she’s with a man now it is a rare, shameful occurrence and only the bottle remembers the details. She spends most nights drinking, knowing she will wake up in very unsexy sweat soaked, urinated on sheets. She doesn’t know how to change until she sees Amy lying in the that hospital bed and chooses to live for both of them.
I really liked how the author handled Alex’s alcoholism. She neither sugar-coats nor condemns it but shows us a woman who headed down the wrong path and found it impossible to turn back. It would have been easy for a single event to have triggered the horror and for that to become the story but it never does. We see it wasn’t a single event but a lifetime of difficulties and we are never bashed over the head with the why, but are instead presented with possibilities while being encouraged to look at the reality of the present. The disease just IS – and the only real question is will Amy be able to inspire Alex enough that she finally tries for sobriety?
It’s an intriguing question and keeps the reader hooked, but the mystery of Amy’s secret lover/assailant is well done, too. I was pretty sure I knew who it was, but watching Alex and her sidekick slowly get the evidence they needed was amazingly entertaining. The book highlights that people want to believe – the truth is out there, someone just needs to look hard enough to find it. In this case, time has given maturity to some of those involved and that maturity helps the evidence come forward.
While this isn’t a psychological thriller it is definitely a more cerebral read than the average suspense story. It’s a well written tale with two intriguing protagonists; I would strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery that concentrates on characters and clues over action.