I Know My Name
Anyone who knows me knows the psychological thriller is one of my very favorite genres to read, and C.J. Cooke’s I Know My Name is one of the better ones I’ve read lately. I’m not normally a big fan of plots involving amnesia, but something about the synopsis caught my attention and I decided to give it a chance anyway. I’m so very glad I did.
A woman is washed up on the shore of a remote Greek island and rescued by a group of friends on a writer’s retreat. Unfortunately, she’s unable to tell them who she is or where she came from. She has absolutely no memory of her past, and her rescuers are understandably at a loss as to how to help her. Of course I – being used to all the conveniences of modern technology – found myself wondering why they just didn’t call or send an email to someone on the mainland, but it turns out part of the purpose of the retreat is to get away from all the distractions of everyday life, including things like telephones and computers and focus solely on their craft. So, our heroine agrees to stay a few days on the island until the next time someone comes to deliver food to the group.
Far away in London, Lochlan Shelley’s work day is interrupted by a frantic call from his neighbor, who informs him that his wife has disappeared, leaving their three-year-old son and infant daughter unattended at home. Lochlan is understandably distressed by the news and rushes home in hopes of locating the missing Eloise, but none of her friends or neighbors have seen or heard from her. The police are called, but they don’t seem able to turn up a single clue, and Lochlan grows increasingly more concerned for his wife’s safety.
As days pass and the investigation seems to have come to a standstill, Lochlan begins to dig into Eloise’s past, and it soon becomes clear that she has been keeping huge parts of her life a secret from him. What was her connection to a local writer’s group, and why has she been seeing a mental health professional? The more he learns about his wife, the more Lochlan is forced to call everything about their marriage into question, and the more certain he becomes that Eloise is in terrible danger.
Right away, I figured out that Eloise Shelley and the unnamed woman in Greece were one and the same; in fact, I think Ms. Cooke expected readers to figure it out. The timelines match up perfectly, and certain clues are dropped that make it feel super obvious, but don’t despair that the mystery has been solved too soon. The author is about to take you on a very twisty ride, and Eloise’s identity is just the beginning.
I’m not someone who is usually frightened by these types of books, but I Know My Name managed to really creep me out on a few occasions. Ms. Cooke does a great job ramping up the suspense in tiny increments, and I found myself on the edge of my seat as I sped through the novel. There were several times I was sure something very bad was about to happen, but I was unable to predict where the threat was coming from.
As I stated above, amnesia plots usually don’t work for me as I often find them too cheesy and hard to take seriously, but this wasn’t at all the case here. We get to spend quite a lot of time in Eloise’s head, and Ms. Cooke does a great job making her struggle to remember feel completely believable. Plus, the chapters from Lochlan’s point of view fill in some of the missing pieces, and this helped me not feel totally confused.
My only quibble with the story has to do with the climax. Parts of it felt a little rushed, and this affected my ability to completely buy into a few key plot points. It’s hard to explain what I mean without entering into spoiler territory, but Lochlan makes a couple of really important discoveries near the end of the book, and while I know he needed to make them, I wish Ms. Cooke hadn’t made them seem so completely out of the blue. Still, the rest of the story was so excellent that I’m able to overlook the slight feeling of discontent the ending evoked and give I Know My Name a wholehearted recommendation.