Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something?
A secret no one could ever guess.
Someone is living a lie.
Is it Lisa?
Maybe it’s her daughter, Ava.
Or could it be her best friend, Marilyn? (Goodreads)
An exciting new thriller from Sarah Pinborough, Cross Her Heart makes you question whether you really know those close to you, and whether your whole perception would change if they had done something terrible in a past life.
The novel opens with Lisa and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Ava, and their everyday life, with it having been them against the world for the entirety of Ava’s childhood. However, now well into her teens, Ava is keen to escape her mum’s overprotective boundaries, as she seems to fuss a lot more than her friends’ parents do. In fact, we find Ava on the verge of losing her virginity, desperate to grow up as quickly as possible.
None the wiser, Lisa is just concerned with going to work and doing the best she can, having just brought in a massive contract from hotel owner, Simon. He is the first man to have shown her any attention in years, but she is reluctant to show him anything back out of fear for letting anyone else in. We get this constant impression that Lisa is always looking over her shoulder, running from someone or something that she can’t tell anyone else about, even Ava.
Her paranoia begins to grow when things in the house appear to have moved, and other strange things are happening that she can’t explain. With Ava seeking teenage freedom, Lisa feels like she can’t even protect her daughter and is losing what little control she has left. As the truth about her past is then unveiled in all it’s horrific glory, Lisa’s friends and neighbours turn against her, but is their judgement warranted, or is there more to what happened all those years ago?
In order to find out, we are gifted with a novel that alternates between several perspectives, including Lisa, Ava and Marilyn, one of Lisa’s work colleagues and a close family friend. All of these perspectives blend together seamlessly, making the story flow at the perfect pace to build suspense and keep you intrigued to read on. I had my own supposition about what may have happened in the past, but I was proved wrong and enjoyed the book all the more for it, as it felt great to read a thriller that has kept some unpredictability.
I think that part of that enjoyment was driven by our attachment to Lisa, as we can see from the outset how she is fragile and mouse-like, letting her past trauma define who she is now. She appears to be clinging onto life rather than truly living, experiencing the world via Ava instead of seeing it for herself. Of course, when we learn the truth about her past this all makes sense, as she is trying to stay under the radar and would rather not be her true self if she can help it. Despite these secrets, we still feel connected to her as a character, which I wouldn’t normally expect from someone with so much to hide.
The same cannot be said for Ava, who is very much an open book in her chapters, not shying away from any of the details and giving us a full account of her teenage life. We learn about her relationship worries and the dynamics between her friendship group, who are just as happy to bitch about each other as they are to gossip together. These teenage dramas did make Ava seem very young, but this makes the reader worry for her more, as she is not as experienced as she thinks she is.
On the whole, this book gripped me from the off and I was excited to find a book that I could really get my teeth into. I devoured every page and couldn’t wait to find out what all of Lisa’s secrets would reveal about her. I even found that I loved Marilyn’s perspective, as she slowly comes into her own and has more of a presence in this book than you initially give her credit for. I thought that a perfect balance had been struck between the differing perspectives, creating tension at every turn and culminating in an exciting conclusion that will have you on the edge of your seat until you’ve finished the entire book. I can’t wait to read whatever Sarah Pinborough has in store for us next.
A stellar thriller that will have you on edge and dying to uncover every secret, this book should make its way to the top of your TBR pile. The character perspectives complement each other perfectly, and each one adds to the mystery and complexity of the novel as a whole. I couldn’t wait to reach the ending, and was unable to predict the many twists and turns that the book would take. This author has gone straight onto my list of ones to watch.