Narrated by Clare Corbett and Cristin Atherton — This new crime thriller by KL Slater makes sly metafiction use of the audio medium as its two narrators read the story of Philippa Roberts. Roberts in turn is the best-selling author of nine novels about police detective Jane Tower and audiobook narrator Eve Hewitt. In an early chapters Philippa appears to have been kidnapped but no ransom demand has been received. The publishing world is alight with rumours.
Ten months after Philippa’s disappearance, the reactions and attitudes of her agent, her editor and the head of the London-based publishing company, Harris-Lasson, provide a mostly cynical look at a publishing industry rife with competing agendas. The only person who seems to have Philippa’s best interests at heart is Eve, the narrator. While you may find some of these characters a little over-the-top (the agent, especially), their actions support the notion that in publishing the worst can and does happen.
When Philippa’s wife Fleur discovers the manuscript for a 10th Jane Tower thriller in their attic, Harris-Lasson staff are overjoyed. The high-profile mystery surrounding Philippa’s fate will undoubtedly rocket the new book to stratospheric levels of success – and profits. The publisher wants Eve, who has always been the voice of the Jane Tower books, to narrate. Now she’s overjoyed as well, with a chance to relaunch her career.
Eve is sent a copy of the new book and has begun to read it. She is rather surprised to find it deviates from the characterisations of Jane, the minutia of her backstory, and other details that are so familiar from the previous books. In the recording studio, she’s given a different copy, and some of the more blatant discrepancies have been fixed. It appears the original was sent to her by mistake, and she’s asked to delete it from her computer and not to tell anyone about the editing that’s been done.
It doesn’t take long for Eve to wonder whether the still-missing Philippa was making these awkward errors because she’s trying to send a message. A casual reader might miss it, but not someone like Eve. This seems a highly plausible plot point, as writers are encouraged to read their own works out loud to catch errors the eye glosses over.
Is there in fact a hidden message? Perhaps even a clue to where Philippa is? Eve will try to find out. She begins to analyse the differences between the two versions and ask about the changes. Quite a number of people might know something useful. Alarmingly, quite a few might want to do Philippa harm. And Eve too, apparently.
Author KL Slater deftly expands the list of possible suspects – a super-fan, former friends, former spouses, even Fleur herself. It may leave you wondering whether anyone actually liked Philippa.
It’s a bit of a stretch to believe so many people would tell to Eve what they think about Philippa’s disappearance. Eve tells them she’s probing in order to get closer to her narration project, but that’s rather flimsy. So it isn’t surprising when Eve begins receiving threats.
If you’re tempted to rank the suspects most likely to have targeted Philippa, the ones most likely to target Eve are not quite the same. This mismatch deepens the story’s mysteries and heightens its tension. Because it mainly takes place inside various heads, there isn’t a lot of place description – just enough to give a powerful sense of where the disappeared author is. The ending seems a bit of a rush, with a hint of What Just Happened? But on the whole, the plot is strong, with well-placed clues and nicely developed red herrings.
Narrators Corbett and Atherton handle the voices of their respective characters well, across genders and ages. There’s no difficulty distinguishing among the key characters, and the story moves along briskly. If it were a print novel, it would be a page-turner, packing a lot into a little over eight hours!
Also try the audiobook of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, narrated by Leslie Manville.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars