Written by CJ Carver — Followers of this site have met this author before – a former book rep and travel writer, Caroline Carver won the CWA Debut Dagger with Blood Junction in 1999 and we reviewed Know Me Now more recently in 2017. Now she’s back with a standalone psychological thriller that’s destined to keep you turning pages obsessively until you reach that final full stop.
Graphic artist Nick Ashdown is winding down after a day at the drawing board in the coastal town of Chichester, watching the TV news at home with his wife Susie, a civil servant who works in London. Their companionable reverie is broken by a news report. Earlier that day, a masked gunman had opened fire on diners at a restaurant in the capital resulting in many injuries. But that’s not what piques their interest – it’s the mobile phone footage of a hero who stopped the man from wreaking further carnage.
Apparently the mysterious bystander left the scene before the police arrived and now everyone is keen to talk to him and shake his hand. However, Nick and Susie know him – he’s Nick’s brother Rob. And that’s a problem because Rob supposedly died 12 years ago in a boating accident.
Cue a tsunami of confusion and anger as the family get to grips with what they’ve just discovered. At the time of his ‘death’, Rob left behind a widow and two children, plus his parents and siblings. What was he playing at? Where has he been all this time? And, most important of all, where is he now?
As the truth comes out, the press descend on the little West Sussex town of Bosham, home to the Ashdown family, and Nick decides to find out for himself what really happened 12 years ago. He’s normally a laid-back kind of guy but the mystery surrounding Rob transforms him into someone a lot tougher and streetwise. He’ll certainly need his wits about him as the trail leads to some pretty dark and desperate places.
Carver throws the whole shooting match at Over Your Shoulder, a book which features crime bosses and hefty henchmen, dodgy coppers and even MI5 agents. There are moments when the stereotypes threaten to overwhelm, but luckily, in Nick Ashdown we have an unusual, somewhat reluctant action; a man whose love for his family outweighs any fears he may have over what he’s actually trying to achieve. As he follows the trail left by his brother, ending up in a fair few cul-de-sacs along the way, Nick surprises even himself. Can this mild-mannered Clark Kent type really become a Superman?
The tale is told from a variety of viewpoints, including that of Nick’s wife, Susie. She’s a woman who clearly loves her husband deeply but has also been hiding things from him for quite some time. Sit back and enjoy, because the skeletons are destined to come a’rattling out of the cupboard with dramatic consequences.
There’s plenty of drama in this hugely enjoyable read. The action jumps around a lot but is at its most realistic when it settles in Bosham, a little town with close links to the sea – and the scenes set on the water in particular are beautifully rendered.
This author has a host of superior plotting skills, and Over Your Shoulder contains some sneaky revelations that will set you back on your heels. The final chapter in particular contains plenty to set the mind whirring. All in all, this is a satisfying standalone story that’s packed with action, deception, lies and intrigue.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars