Dear Amy * Helen Callaghan Book review

In her guise as ‘Dear Amy’, agony aunt for a local newspaper, Margot Lewis has dealt with all sorts of letters – but never one like this…

Dear Amy,

I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man.
I don’t know where I am.

Please help me,
Bethan Avery

This must be a cruel hoax. Because Bethan Avery has been missing for nearly two decades.

But as the present-day search intensifies for another missing schoolgirl, Margot is unnerved enough to take the letter to the police, hoping they will dismiss it as a sick joke.

Instead, they let Margot in on a little secret. One that confirms her darkest fears and tangles her up in the search for the sender, which could save one young girl’s life and cost Margot her own…

Dear Amy is accomplished, engaging and utterly thrilling; beautifully written, with a narrator who manages to be both vulnerable and fierce at the same time. I found myself cheering her on at every gut-wrenching turn. The breathtaking finale is the most exciting and terrifying thing I have read in a very long time’ Elizabeth Haynes, bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner

I bought the hardcover from the local WHSmith with a coupon from a friend and a gift card from the other. I’d thought I’d stray away from my favourite writers and try something new for a change. And boy, was I in for a thrill ride that took me a weekend to complete (while reading another book on the side as well). I found myself engrossed in the story and it’s more than a classic who-dun-it novel. It’s brilliantly written and the mix between the real-life drama of a divorce and a 20-year-old missing children case is perfectly balanced.

We don’t get a lot of dwelling into what makes a couple split up or the harrowing divorce proceedings (like in Margaret Atwood – Life before man) and the murders are not explicitly described to make you feel like you’re in a police room with the murderer (like in Chris Carter – An Evil Mind book review). It does present a grueling view of what happens to runaways and to vulnerable children who are targeted by pedophiles.

And to be honest, the scene at the end, I would have battered that bastard until there would have been no proof left for the forensic team to identify him by. Well, you know what they say about child abusers in prison.. they won’t make it long if left with the other inmates.

Good parts: We have different point of views – one even from the disturbed psyche of a child molester and the insight is gruesome. Watch your kids and teach them to be weary of strangers! Very good psychological background research into dissociative amnesia and PTSD symptoms. I will definitely add this book to Books dealing with mental health

Bad parts: When switching chapters, you sometimes lost who was the person talking. Having names at the start would have helped. I felt like the personal life could have been expanded to make the ex involved as well – it felt like a sub-plot that never went anywhere or had any other use than have a bad-guy in the personal space.

What I lovedHelen Callaghan: The Long Shadow of the Great House

About the author

Helen Callaghan

Helen Callaghan. Photography ©Lee Irvine, PelicanImages Ltd.
Helen Callaghan. Photography ©Lee Irvine, PelicanImages Ltd.

My name is Helen Callaghan and I write fiction whenever I’m left unsupervised. I live in Cambridge amongst teetering piles of books with my hamster, Aleister.

I’ve always written, it’s my one constant. I was at various points a student nurse, barmaid and drama student. Eventually I settled into bookselling, working as a fiction specialist and buyer for a variety of bookshops, and did that for nearly ten years. In the end I became restless and studied for A-levels at night school. I achieved a place at Cambridge University as a mature student, where I studied Archaeology.

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