Forget Me Not
Forget Me Not is an intriguing contemporary suspense novel with gothic overtones, reminiscent of Mary Stewart’s books such as The Moon Spinners and My Brother Michael. Although the plot is somewhat predictable, multi-dimensional characters and a subtle building of tension sustain the reader’s interest. Complex and bittersweet family relationships are explored here as a woman searches for her true identity and an answer for her disabling emotional turmoil.
Lisa Cooper is a thirty-one year old Canadian artist who, along with her partner Jerry, owns an art gallery in Winnipeg. She is plagued by a growing phobia of running water, and when gripped by the terror, enters a near-trance condition as she compulsively paints scenes of wild, turbulent flood waters. She is becoming increasingly controlled by fear, nearly unable to force herself to cross bridges or approach large or rapidly moving bodies of water. With the Red River flooding and Winnipeg preparing for the worst, she is nearing a complete breakdown.
Lisa’s emotional distress is increased by the recent death of her adoptive mother. Lisa knows almost nothing about her birth parents, only that they were English and died in an automobile accident in Switzerland. She was adopted by her nanny when she was five, and gained a father when her new mother married some time later. When her therapist insists, Lisa confronts her father, demanding that he tell her anything he knows about her early childhood so she can find some clue to the source of her phobia. He knows nothing, but reluctantly tells her that her mother left a letter with some information to be read by Lisa only in great need, such as a medical emergency. The letter tells Lisa only that her birthplace is the village of Charnwood in Somerset, England, and her family name is Kingsley. She is directed to contact a Dr. Trewen for medical records if she ever needs them for health reasons.
Knowing that she cannot continue to live the way she is, Lisa goes to Charnwood to try to find answers that will help her. She does indeed find her family, but along with it, dangerous secrets that could cause her own death.
Lisa is an admirable woman, caring, sensitive, and courageous. Her love and devotion to the parents who raised her, and her staunch friendship with her gay partner, Jerry, provide shining threads in the tapestry of this story. Betrayal, abandonment, unrequited love, and potential murder are dark strands woven in, adding depth and weight to the finished work.
The characters, ranging from typical British shop and innkeepers, to the aristocratic Kingsleys, are saved from stereotype by the fullness of their personalities. The story does follow a somewhat predictable line, but Ms. Bowden manages to sustain the tension through the skillful use of emotion and memory. All but a few of the fringe characters offer believable motivation for their actions, even the villain.
Readers looking for a strong romantic element will not find it here, although there is promise. But if it’s a good, suspenseful mystery you are looking for, Forget Me Not is just the type of the English suspense story that can keep mystery lovers turning the pages long into the night.