Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

My literary tastes are broad and, especially as a writer, I try to vary the genres I read as much as possible. Close inspection, however, will reveal a heavy leaning towards psychological thrillers, the twistier and scarier the better. Exquisite fulfills this brief to the letter, which is why it was top of my summer holiday reading list.

This is the author’s second novel but her first in this genre. It’s mainly written from two first-person perspectives: Bo, a leading author and creative writing guru, and Alice, an aspiring writer on a losing streak, boyfriend-wise and job-wise. The two meet on a writer’s retreat, a relationship develops and…events turn sinister. That’s about as much as I can say without giving away any spoilers.

Of all the books I’ve read and loved, few get under my skin. By that I mean while I’m reading them, and often for days afterwards, they consume me. I dream about them. The lines between reality and fiction blur and sometimes I have to stop and think whether I’ve met this person or whether they’re a character I’m reading. Exquisite got under my skin.

I loved this book. Like, really, really loved everything about it. So much so that the challenge I’ve got is to write a helpful review that isn’t completely gushing and over-the-top. I’ll give it a go and apologies if it all becomes too much.

The writing is solid and effortless and the story sound. There’s suspense from the outset and as a proficient plot-spotter, I did guess the outcome but not without much to-ing and fro-ing along the way and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. Not one bit.

The characters are believable, and live and breathe off the page as easily as if you were watching them on TV (TV rights are a done deal for this one, surely?). And the setting, the setting is what really drew me in. Particularly the scenes in the Lake District, Grassmere to be exact. Aside from the obvious beauty of the place, Sarah Stovell captured the cold and damp environment so accurately, I almost forgot I was lying in 30 degree sunshine and wanted to wrap myself up in a blanket.

It’s one of those books that pulls you along. Every scene and every chapter leaves you needing to know what happens next. Needless to say I devoured it like a Sunday roast and it was just as satisfying. It might be too soon to call it but I predict Sarah Stovell as one to watch.

Verdict: The name says it all.

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