Hannah and April were very close at Oxford University, where they were roommates and in the same group of close friends. That is, until April was murdered. Hannah has lived with the crime looming over her life ever since. When the man found guilty of the killing dies in prison, still protesting his innocence, the case is once again in the public eye, and so is Hannah. But is there something about that night that she doesn’t know?
The book is alternating chapters between then, ten years ago, when Hannah was at Oxford and finding her way with April’s help, and the present, where she works in a bookstore and is pregnant and married to the man who was April’s boyfriend. And of course, it’s from Ruth Ware, the author of The Woman In Cabin 10, and who is a well loved master of this genre. Simon & Schuster are saying that they think this is her best book yet. They might be right.
The book has a really nice atmosphere, because it’s set in Oxford University and bookstores, it’s very dark academia. I really liked that aspect. I like books set on a campus with a group of friends. It’s just always a bit fun, dark and interesting, and everyone has secrets as they try to start their new life at college.
I liked Hannah as a protagonist. She feels a lot less silly and a lot more sensible, on the whole, than a lot of domestic thriller characters. She seems like a nice person and one you can imagine being friends with, which is nice. That said, I really liked April as a character. She’s just fun to read about. She’s beautiful, sassy, a little crazy, and she can be really nice and generous with Hannah. She’s sort of perfect. But the book shows us the other side of her as well. Her pranks that are a little mean, her selfish side, her need to dominate and her irresponsibility. Sometimes we look back with rose coloured glasses on our old lives and on friends we have lost. I liked the way the book used this idea and explored the different sides of April. Sometimes, the people who we have lost were not that nice, but we loved them anyway. It makes for a more complex story.
On the whole, really liked this one. It does suffer from a few tropes of the genre. It has the alternating narrative style, one chapter in the past, one in the present, that has become a bit tiring to me. And it has the obligatory bait and switch ending with a dramatic standoff. Sometimes I feel like these dramatic endings don’t always match the rest of the book. For example, the book may function like a cozy mystery, and then suddenly the end feels like an action movie. Here, in Ware’s hands, it works, but Hannah does walk right into danger. That said, I liked this one. Another good book from this author.
Read It If: you ever had that bright best friend in college who brought you out of yourself. Dark academia fans, thriller and mystery readers, and those who love the author will all be pleased with this one. Very entertaining.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book for review.