How I Lost You
How I Lost You introduces readers to Susan Webster, a woman just released from a psychiatric institution for murdering her infant son. Susan is determined to make a new life for herself, so she goes to live in a village where no one knows her, changes her name to Emma Cartwright, and does her best to start over. But someone has other ideas. Within a month of her release, Susan receives a picture of a young boy, and the message on the back tells her it’s a picture of her son. But how can that be? Unfortunately, Susan has absolutely no memory of the day Dylan died. Her belief that she killed him comes from the testimony given at her trial, especially that given by Mark, her ex-husband, who discovered Dylan’s body. Could Mark be playing a cruel trick on her?
Over the next several weeks, it becomes clear that someone definitely has it in for Susan. The police aren’t the least bit helpful, despite the fact that her house has been broken into, strange packages have been left at her door, and Susan reports being certain someone is watching her. They chalk it up to village residents not being pleased that a convicted child killer has come to live in their midst. But Susan isn’t so sure that’s what is going on. What if everyone was wrong and she didn’t kill Dylan after all?
With the help of her best friend Cassie and a mysterious reporter with a secret agenda of his own, Susan begins to dig deep into what happened on the day Dylan supposedly died. What follows is a twisty tale of buried secrets and huge betrayals where absolutely nothing is as it seems, and no one can be fully trusted. I figured a few things out pretty early on, but there were a few twists that took me by surprise, and I definitely enjoyed watching Susan fight to uncover the truth.
Unfortunately, as indicated by my grade, How I Lost You does have its problems. First off, the reader is given to understand that Susan is living under an assumed name, and no one knows who she really is. Then, just a short time later, we discover this isn’t actually true. Susan just tells people her name is Emma Cartwright, but doesn’t seem to possess any of the documents necessary for pulling off such a deception. The police know who she really is, and Cassie, the friend she made while incarcerated, also knows the truth, so why is Susan so shocked to learn her identity isn’t a secret after all? This question niggled at me through most of the story, and, when the answer was finally revealed, it didn’t quite ring true.
The majority of the story is told in first person from Susan’s point of view. Some readers find this narration style somewhat limiting, as first person narration is often quite unreliable, but I don’t mind it, as long as the character’s voice feels authentic, which Susan’s does. What I did take issue with was Ms. Blackhurst’s decision to throw in several chapters that at first seem totally unrelated to the story at hand. She does manage to link them up eventually, but I found myself growing frustrated with the second storyline, even after I understood why it had been included.
Despite its flaws, I found How I Lost You completely engrossing. Parts of it were disturbing, but I like that in the mysteries I read. It’s not overly violent, which I know will be a plus for some readers. Susan is a deeply flawed heroine, but Ms. Blackhurst makes it easy to root for her, even when her actions are questionable.
This isn’t the best mystery I’ve read this year, but it’s also far from the worst. I enjoyed the hours I spent unraveling the web of deceit surrounding Susan, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Ms. Blackhurst’s work in the future.