A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon- A Novel

Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.

Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.

Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.

The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy—her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.

In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.

Told in the present by an increasingly fragile Alex and in dream-like flashbacks by Amy as she floats in a fog of memories, dreams, and music from 1995, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer to a breathtaking conclusion.               

where to keep the pram, tension in the Middle East.
The new extension was everything. And if Fiona didn't get it, however impossible the sums were, the world would explode. He couldn't be entirely sure that it was his baby in that cartoon belly, and not a ticking time bomb.
The 1930s semi in Wallington Grove, Tunbridge Wells had seemed like a palace when they moved in, just two years ago. It had taken prudence, abstinence and overtime to save a deposit, and the newlyweds had agreed that work and salary had to be the main focus for at least three years; they had to feed the machine. Fiona had agreed wholeheartedly, absolutely, the mortgage was a stretch, it would take two full-time salaries to service it and they both must do their bit.
Some eighteen months later, after a concentrated campaign veering from the subtle to the tearful, they had started to try for a baby and conceived almost instantly. And now the baby needed an extension.
"Fi, look, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be shitty but I really have to go. I've got some really awful meetings today and my head's all over the place."
'Sure," she said, "whatever."
She didn't ask for more than that. Why didn't she ask for more than that now?
They both needed to leave. Fiona for work as a graphic designer, Jacob for the hospital, where he did not work.


Try Not to BreatheTry Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon is a 2016 Ballantine Books publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Often times I roll my eyes at the cliché’s like “stunning debut”, because it’s been applied to so many sub-par books that are attempting to latch onto a popular trend. Currently, the psychological thriller is all the rage, and this book has been likened to the work of Tana French and Paula Hawkins, which is something that is becoming a bit of a pet peeve with me, since comparisons like these give the reader expectations that are not fair, are unrealistic, and paints the new author into a preconceived corner. So, I didn’t jump in with both feet expecting great things from this book, but instead approached it warily.

Thankfully, this book is one of those rare occurrences where the book actually lived up to the hype., but the book stands on its own merits, and doesn’t need to depend on comparisons to the writing styles of others.

One small nitpick thing I feel compelled to point out, is that while the story does have an atmosphere conducive to a psychological thriller, it comes up a little short in that area. The focus is more sharply aimed at solving what basically amounts to a cold case. What makes this one stand out, is the unlikely way the case suddenly finds itself under so much scrutiny, by introducing us to Alex, a journalist, a woman hanging on by a thread, a raging alcoholic, close to drinking herself to death, who latches onto Amy’s situation like a lifeline.

Fifteen years ago, Amy and Jacob were a couple, but Amy went missing, and is later found half dead. All these years, Amy has lain in a coma, but is now breathing on her own, showing promising signs of brain activity. When Alex comes to the hospital on an assignment, she recognizes Amy, and feels compelled to find out who is responsible for putting her in this condition.

Alex deals with having thrown away her marriage, her career, and her health, all while making some kind of connection with Amy, which leads to an unorthodox introduction to Jacob who still visits Amy every chance he gets.

Jacob is struggling with his marriage to Fiona, who is eight months pregnant and totally in the dark about Jacob and Amy. In order for Jacob to embrace his future completely with Fiona, he must put the demons of the past to rest once and for all.

Thus begins the unlikely partnership between Alex and Jacob, who team up to find Amy’s attacker after these years. The layers of the onion begin peeling back as Amy’s father, stepfather and old high school friends are questioned, and Jacob begins to realize things were not the way he remembers them, and that he didn’t know Amy, or anyone else, as well as he thought…

The characters in this novel are well drawn, realistic, and compelling. Alex, in particular, is portrayed in such a raw and emotional way, highlighting the all too real struggles of an alcoholic, highlighting all she has lost as a result of this disease. Naturally, it’s up to Alex to decide whether to live or die, fight or give up, and in so many ways, Amy’s case is her saving grace.
Jacob is an enigma, keeping secrets from his wife, making me worry about why he felt the need to do that. How did he come to this junction in the road, and why isn’t he fighting harder to live in the here and now?

The case is a puzzler, with many suspects, lots of dark secrets and lies, and unsavory characters. I have to confess, though, that I did have the 'whodunit' part figured out, by three quarters of the way through, but, I didn’t understand the whys and wherefores, and I was so emotionally invested in the characters I could hardly stand to put the book down.

The story became more than just a mystery, it was about restitution, retribution, and finding peace, a purpose, and the release from the strain of guilt and regret.

Overall, this is an impressive, deeply compelling, and powerful story, moving and intense, and okay… it was a stunning debut.

4.5 stars





Holly Seddon was born and raised in the sleepy south-west of England and now lives slap bang in the centre of Amsterdam with her husband and four children. Throughout her 15-year career, Holly has been privileged to work in some of the UK’s most exciting newsrooms.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE is her first novel, published in the UK (Corvus/Atlantic), USA and Canada (Ballantine/Penguin Random House), Australia and New Zealand (Allen & Unwin) and The Netherlands (Ambo Anthos). It will soon be available in the US , Germany (Heyne), Russia (Sindbad), Swiat Ksiazk (Poland and, Crown (Taiwan) .

Holly is currently writing her next novel. 

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