Julianna Burke is a successful crime writer, loved by readers the world over. Her books sell and sell, with each new release eagerly awaited by fans. She and her husband Connor are very much in love and enjoy a charmed life, with homes in South Carolina and Scotland.
As we first meet Julianna, she’s arriving at the second of those homes, a remote property on the Fife coastal trail, and Connor isn’t with her. Instead, she has been accompanied by her assistant, Margot, and as Julianna explains to the couple who keep an eye on the place, Connor will be along next week.
That statement provokes telling looks – because Connor is dead, found murdered in his study at their beachside home near Charleston. It was Julianna who made the discovery and her confusion could be from the grief she feels at the loss of her soulmate. Couldn’t it? Trouble is, the author has been struggling with her memory for some months and Margot, and Julianna’s daughter Logan – at home, minding the beach house and Annabelle, Julianna’s dog – are growing increasingly worried.
Thus begins a tale which is both bittersweet and hugely frustrating. The early chapters of Murder, Forgotten are poignant as they explore the plight of a woman who is gradually losing her mind. Every day brings a fresh grief as Julianna is told her beloved husband is dead, and she begins hallucinating, seeing her American next door neighbour in a little Scottish village, imagining someone is trying to push her off a cliff when she foolishly sets off on a lone walk.
It is all in her befuddled mind – or is it? We’re not certain as Richardson-Moore deftly blurs the lines between reality and delusion. Julianna is a fine example of an unreliable narrator, but at the back of your mind you begin to wonder… and in that sense of insecurity comes the feeling that no one is to be trusted.
So far, so absorbing, but then the author makes a decision that sends this book off-kilter. The spotlight falls on Logan, at home with the dog. She is worried about her mother and as this tale unfolds we can certainly see her point. The pair are reunited again at the beach house, but then something happens that puts a whole new complexion on things.
Suddenly, Logan must rethink everything she thought she knew. Her brother, Harrison, is no help at all – all he is interested in is getting power of attorney to control his mother’s affairs. Deep down Logan knows things aren’t right, but who to turn to?
Murder, Forgotten is a book of two halves, and while one is highly satisfying the other falls wide of the mark and left me feeling frustrated and a little cheated. The abrupt switch from tense psychological thriller to a more broad brush whodunnit didn’t sit well with this reader. However, I enjoyed the sense of place, particularly in South Carolina, where the beach setting is lavishly evoked. Characterisation is also well rendered, with Julianna and Logan taking the starring roles, and deservedly so.
This is a book that fascinates and frustrates in equal measure, but it should prove an entertaining companion as the nights begin to draw in. For me, it is one of those novels that you read, then sit back and ponder what might have been. Why not give it a go and see if you agree?
CFL Rating: 3 Stars