Written by Cath Staincliffe — It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in the North East of England when Naomi Baxter and her boyfriend Alex headed to a family barbeque at her sister Suzanne’s house. Suzanne had invited everyone round to celebrate the birth of her new baby Ollie, and Naomi and Alex had their own good news to celebrate. Alex had finally got a job – a training contract with a legal firm in town. Carmel and Phil (Naomi and Suzanne’s parents) left the barbeque around five and Phil set off for his gig at seven. Suzanne sat down to watch television with a glass of wine, and then received the phone call that changed her life.
It was Alex’s mum Monica on the phone. She had bad news – there’d been a road accident. Suzanne rushed to hospital, calling Phil on the way to let him know. When she arrived at the hospital Naomi was being prepared for surgery. Naomi’s heart had stopped and she was resuscitated at the scene. She had sustained a fractured skill, broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a broken ankle; she also had extensive internal injuries. Alex in comparison had got off lightly – only a few broken bones and bruises. Apparently, Naomi was driving and lost control of the car whilst taking a bend, killing a cyclist – a nine-year-old girl.
When she finally regains consciousness Naomi has no memory of the crash and Carmel is forced to break the news of the child’s death to her. Naomi slides into a depression, haunted by what she has done and the prospect that she may be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving. If convicted she could face up to 14 years in prison. Suzanne thinks Naomi was drunk at the wheel, but Carmel sets out to investigate. She calls round to all the guests at the party and is determined to find out the truth. Each chapter flicks between the story of Naomi and that of Carmel. This helps to give a complete overview of the accident and the reactions of everyone involved.
Similar to Cath Staincliffe’s last novel, Split Second, this book focuses on the characters involved in the crime rather than the investigation itself. Unlike many crime novels, it is not centred on a murder investigation, but on a death caused by dangerous driving, which isn’t normally considered as criminal as murder, but does have the same outcome for the victim.
As such, Blink of an Eye is a thought-provoking novel. It portrays a death by dangerous driving from the perspective of the driver – one who was over the limit. One might normally form a hatred for someone who has killed an innocent nine-year-old girl, but Staincliffe skilfully steers us towards sympathy for Naomi. You see the trauma she has to deal with post-accident, and how she deals with the fact that she’s taken a life. The book is an emotional rollercoaster – one which made me realise there are two sides to every story.
There are some overly detailed descriptions in Blink of an Eye which aren’t particularly relevant to the story. Sometimes, we get a bit more perspective on the characters than we need in a standalone novel like this. You are often taken back in time to when Carmel met Phil and how they fell in love. Instead, it might have been more interesting to find out more about the police investigation, and what they discover. No mention is made of this until Naomi’s arrest.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars