I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Keep Him Close by Emily Koch
Published by Harvill Secker on 19 March 2020
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Family & Relationships
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
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Alice's son is dead. Indigo's son is accused of murder, but she is determined to prove his innocence. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda. Alice can't tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed - and she needs to make sure Indigo's efforts to free Kane don't put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper? No one knows a son like his mother. But neither Alice nor Indigo know the whole truth about their boys, and what happened between them on that fateful night.
Keep Him Close follows the story of two mothers. Two mothers who have lost something incredibly close to them. Grief can take many forms and both essentially aching from the pit of despair. A longing that sits like rocks at the pit of the stomach. A pain that they both need to learn to deal with. We are taken on a journey of two women’s interweaving connection and a path crossed takes them both on trip of self-discovery and forgiveness. One mother has lost her son and one has admitted to killing him, a friendship found in the strangest of places.
You really don’t have the chance to breathe in the opening chapter. Things are gearing towards a climax. A rocky relationship between mother and son, Alice and Lou. Alice is very cold and awkward, and Lou seems harsh and a bit of a bully towards his mother but really it seems like he was just aching for that connection that his brother Benny had with her. I had a severe case of whiplash between Alice’s emotions and Lou’s “I couldn’t care attitude.” It’s an interlude into a night out gone wrong – a celebration that won’t quickly be forgotten.
Keep Him Close was predominately a domestic thriller but if you are reading it mainly for the thrills and twists you might be sorely disappointed. I enjoyed the reading experience and the writing was sharp and insightful, but it didn’t set me alight. I wanted it to blow me away and knock my socks off, but I was left just feeling that it was okay. A fairly passable read but it wouldn’t be memorable for me in the long term. It’s a slow burn thriller but it takes a bit on the long side to get more details about that fateful night that Lou fell.
One thing that I did particularly enjoy was the building relationship between the two mothers. It’s a relationship that shouldn’t be able to take off. Guilt and blame and social themes shouldn’t be a fertile ground for it to take off but slowly it does. They both felt the aching loss of losing sons even though only one was dead. The scenes between both Alice and Indigo are very emotional and extremely well written. The battle between pride and stubbornness are prevalent in both women but Indigo chipped away at Alice’s fragile emotional state and was finally able to crack the enigma.
I really struggled to get on a level playing field with Alice’s persona however. Her non-emotional state to learning about her son’s death perplexed me and her ability to keep ploughing on was baffling. Talk about stiff upper lip! She wasn’t keen on taking any time off work and pretty much instantly wanted to sort through Lou’s things. At different points I questioned whether Alice was on the ASD spectrum due to her social awkwardness and in her own words – can’t really deal with other people. Keep Him Close was a mixed bag for me but it had enough of the things I liked to keep me reading.
ABOUT EMILY KOCH
I am an author and journalist living in Bristol, UK, and am represented by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White.
My second novel Keep Him Close came out in March 2020. The Sunday Times called it ‘a tense drama’ and Literary Review said it was ‘A moving account of family relationships and…devastating criminality’. The Sun said it was ‘Twisty, emotional and addictive’. Waterstones said I am ‘One of the most exciting new crime writers of our day.’
My debut novel If I Die Before I Wake was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award. It has also been longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, was selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month, and was one of Waterstones’ top paperbacks of 2019.