Monday, 6 June 2016

Disclaimer by Renee Knight - book review

Disclaimer is a debut novel by Renee Knight which has enjoyed massive success, selling worldwide and earning a film option. It's a psychological thriller, clearly targeted at the Gone Girl market, told from two contrasting viewpoints: those of the hunter and his prey.

The opening premise is superb. The tagline on the cover sums it up neatly: Imagine if the next rhriller you opened was all about you. Catherine Ravenscroft, a middle-aged woman who has pursued a highly successful career in TV, finds a novel called The Perfect Stranger on her bedside table, she doesn't know where it has come from, but starts reading, and finds to her horror that it tells a story about the most horrific experience of her own life, one she had believed was safely buried in the past.

I love this idea - it's a variant on a very clever concept that (for instance) John Franklin Bardin played with almost seventy years ago in The Last of Philip Banter, but it's handled in a pleasingly original fashion. We soon discover that the author of the mysterious book is a man called Stephen, a retired teacher whose wife has died recently, and who is pursuing an agenda as a result. Stephen's obsessiveness and mental disintegration is revealed gradually, while Catherine's own seemingly perfect life begins to fall apart.

There is one particularly significant plot twist near the end, as one expects in books of this kind. The cast of characters is small and well-drawn, although even Catherine is not as likeable as some readers may wish and almost everyone else is really hard to like. I enjoyed this book, while feeling that it didn't quite live up to the brilliance of the opening scenario (always the problem with brilliant opening scenarios!). It's not, I think, in the same league as Gone Girl, which remains easily the best (and best written) book of this kind that I've read in recent years, but it's certainly entertaining and its success is not in the least surprising,

1 comment:

Clothes In Books said...

I enjoyed this one too, Martin, with a few reservations: as you say, that opening is hard to live up to. But I thought she played cleverly with our expectations, and she really did surprise me.