My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A fantastic debut. Dear Amy is exceptionally well written, with a very likeable main character and a storyline that gripped me from the very start. It’s not perfect and I found the first half to be much better than the last but I will most definitely be looking out for more books by Helen Callaghan.
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters – but none like the one she’s just received: Dear Amy,
I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything . .
This definitely seems to be turning out to be a great summer for crime and thrillers. There seems to be a new must read story out almost every week and I know I’ve been mixing a lot more of them than usual into my reading. In a market so crowded it’s difficult to see how a new book from a new author could possibly stand out but in my opinion Dear Amy definitely manages just that.
With this type of story it’s difficult to say a lot about the plot without giving away spoilers but essentially it’s about an agony aunt (and English teacher) who receives a letter from someone claiming to be a girl abducted a number of years ago. For some reason she finds herself believing it could be genuine and when the police don’t take her seriously she starts looking into it herself.
From the very start I found main character Margot Lewis to be very likeable. She’s probably around the same age as me, loves her job as a teacher and as an agony aunt but is having a bit of a personal crisis as she’s in the process of getting divorced and her soon to be ex is making things difficult. Understandably she is a little emotional and sometime she does seem to lose control a bit but given everything that happens her reactions actually feel quite natural and real.
Margot’s character and how it develops is pretty central to the story and while there were elements I didn’t quite believe it did feel like a natural development. Similarly there are a few things in the plot that didn’t seem wholly believable and while some became clear as we got further into the story there were a few bits that I’m still not too sure about.
Despite these niggles, the writing stayed consistently good throughout. It somehow drew you completely into the story and into Margot’s head. There are some flashbacks to Margot’s past and occasionally it seemed like her mind would wander on to something unconnected but I suspect if you were in my head it would be exactly the same. I absolutely loved how she described places and people in particular. I felt like I got a real sense of them and I’m someone who frequently skims over descriptions.
While the majority of the book is told from Margot’s perspective there is the occasional switch to other characters and while I liked some of them there were others I wasn’t as keen on. I think this was probably my biggest issue with the second half of the book. It switched focus to one of the other less likeable characters and it put me off a little. It was also at this point that a lot of the tension and mystery kind of dissipated and it became much more your standard thriller and the ending felt a little flat.
That being said, I still think it was an excellent debut that I would recommend you give a go. On the basis of the writing style alone I will definitely be looking out for more books by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.