sylvia ashby

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

A book of brilliant beginning, strangely satisfying ending, and a “meh“ middle part.

41nTt6pxC4L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Margo Lewis is a classics teacher living in Cambridge and doubling as an agony aunt for the local newspaper. Her column is called Dear Amy, hence the name of the book.

After a student from Margo’s school goes missing—presumed a runaway because of a few hastily gathered personal possessions—Margo begins to receive some very disturbing letters. They are addressed to the Dear Amy columnist and are written by a girl that’s gone missing decades ago and is presumed dead.

Now, I loved that beginning. It’s got everything I’m a sucker for in a psychological thriller: a narrator you are reluctant to trust because you instinctively feel she’s not telling you everything. A young girl in peril. A beautiful town and a community that does not quite match the moral dignity it inhabits. Well-buried old secrets surfacing reluctantly.

But, and in this case the “but” is a big one: the book needed more work.
Firstly, there are a few discrepancies in the story. Plot holes but also pieces of information that we are given and that don’t match from one chapter to the next. Secondly, I found the chapters from the villain’s perspective immature and clichéd, to say the least. I don’t think they were needed from suspense and plot development point of view, so I wish they hadn’t been included. The physiological methods for retrieving lost memories described in the book were painfully poor and a bit desperate.

There were a few brilliant moments, sparks, in the reviling of the story, which I enjoyed. The novel is fast passed. Margo is likable and I was rooting for her to be “saved” from her past.

Some reviewers have mentioned that they were annoyed by the romance streak in the novel. I wasn’t. I wanted something good to happen to that woman after all the crap she’s been through. The very last sentence saved the book for me, really. I’m not going into details, but it was kind of a full stop that really gave me closure. It was strangely satisfying in a conclusive sort of way.

This book was given to me by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. In this case, I wished they’d revise the book before releasing it to fix up the few weaknesses and make it a five-star read, which it could well be.

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