He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

Image resultHe Said/She Said by Erin Kelly is the story of Laura and Kit, who meet at university and immediately want to spend the rest of their lives together. In the early days of their relationship they travel to Cornwall with Kit's twin brother Mac and Laura's best friend Ling for the 2000 solar eclipse, indulging Kit's hobby of eclipse-chasing and their love of partying at the same time while intending to make some money selling hot drinks at a festival. But things take a disturbing turn when Laura witnesses what she is convinced is a rape and the police are called. Jamie, the alleged attacker, insists sex with Beth was consensual, but the case comes to court and Laura and Kit are key witnesses.

Jump forward 15 years and Laura and Kit are still together and Kit is preparing for another eclipse-chasing trip, this time to the Faroe Islands. But what is the root of the debilitating anxiety disorder that Laura, pregnant with twins, now suffers from? Why have they adopted a new surname? And why is Kit so terrified that one of the other passengers on his Faroese boat trip could be Beth? 

The full story of the rape case and its aftermath is pieced together by the alternating narratives of Laura and Kit, so you do need to keep your wits about you to remember who is telling you what and when, but that's no bad thing. Every time you think you trust an account of what happened at the festival, during the court case and immediately afterwards - not just from Kit and Laura but from Beth and Jamie too - Kelly pulls the rug from under your feet and you're left questioning your own judgement and guiltily rethinking your preconceptions. Soon, you're searching for inconsistencies and contradictions in everyone's stories as lies are exposed and secrets uncovered.

This is a very cleverly-constructed page-turner and an excellent example of a psychological thriller, full of tension and suspense, as well as being an astute commentary on the nature of rape prosecutions and the way we treat both the victim and the accused. It's probably worth me pointing out that I did Laura and Kit quite difficult to like, but I didn't personally find this a problem: it's a measure of Erin Kelly's skill that she can create characters I don't like, but can still care about and sympathise with: if anything, I think it made the book an even more interesting read.

This kind of psychological thriller is something I'd drifted away from over the past year, simply because I'd read too many mediocre examples of late, but He Said/She Said is an absolute masterclass in the genre. It genuinely did keep me guessing right up until the last page. If you're looking for a dark, gripping and intelligent thriller full of ambiguities and twists that will keep you reading late into the night, this is definitely a book for you.

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.