|Date Published||23 March 2017|
‘Keep an eye on your daughter.’ These are six words of advice to Jo Blackmore – or a threat. She must save her daughter and plan their escape.
But Paula, the woman who whispers in their ears, is the one with the power to turn a difficult period into a marriage in freefall, heading for catastrophe.
The more Max ignores Paula’s threats, the more Jo fears for her daughter’s life. Alone with her fear, and in trouble with the police, Jo must save Elise and plan their escape. And she’s leaving Max behind.
I make no apologies; I am a CL Taylor fan. She hooked me with her novel The Lie, and since then I have been following her progress, applauding her at every turn. So, it was with no small amount of gimme-gimme that I delved into The Escape.
Taylor has a distinct writing style; her use of the present tense and first person point of view for the main character and antagonist alternating with the third person point of view for her other major characters gives intimacy and immediacy to the story. It’s a terrific way of pulling the reader in. This, combined with an ability to disturb the reader from the first page using undertones of conflict and suspense, is why Taylor is an author shining a beacon of light in a sea of cosy crime mediocrity.
Although some of the lesser characters could have been a little rounder, the main characters are flawed and leap off the page, earning sympathy and irritation in turn. At times, I wanted to shake Jo and Max, because I cared.
The story is not without its weak points. Although I am not an expert in agoraphobia, Jo’s behaviour seemed a little inconsistent and contrived. Yes, the main character must evolve by the end of a story. But I felt Jo sometimes cherry-picked what brought on her panic to suit the plot in the early part of the book. This not only made me step back from the story at times, it also detracted from the point where she ‘grew a pair’ and changed into a stronger person.
I was also rather disappointed by the length and depth of the reveal at the end. Readers are not unintelligent, and spoon-feeding them with the criminal’s motivation is, at best, superfluous, and at worst, insulting.
One could also say that the speed of degeneration in relations between Jo and Max was shockingly fast. Perhaps this is because the author didn’t bog the plot down with backstory. A few more introspections on their relationship history might have put their problems into perspective. But breakdown often does play out like that: one dark thought, the floodgates open, and niggles turn to antipathy and outright hatred in the blink of an eye. Speed apart, their marriage failure was bitter-sweet and convincing.
Although I was disappointed by the lengthy reveal, I loved the two last lines. They finished a fast-paced story with a gratifying, slightly dark full stop.
Reviewed 09 October 2017 by Kati Barr-Taylor
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.