I was quite happy to get my hands on a copy of Lucie Whitehouse's suspenseful tale, The Bed I Made, which unfortunately has no set publishing date as yet in the US. It's a perfect summer vacation or beach read, and fit very nicely with my own beach/seaside reading that I like to do when the weather turns warm (must revamp that list). The Isle of Wight off the southern coast of Britain is the setting of the novel and the place Kate flees to in seeking refuge from a relationship gone wrong. While the story opens during summer's sultry days, Kate makes her way to the island when it empties of tourists and braces for winter's more inhospitable behavior.
Maybe it would never had happened if Kate wasn't so involved in her work as a translator and at a place in her life where she was alone so much of the time. Abandoned by her mother at a young age she became close to her brother and father, but they now make their home in the States, so she is in a sense particularly vulnerable living alone in London. A chance encounter with a devastatingly handsome man in a bar throws Kate's life into complete upheaval. Kate spends a wild, alcohol-soaked night with Richard and finds she can't stop thinking about him, much to the displeasure of her friend Helen. Richard is a risk taker, both in his business as a property developer and in relationships. And Kate is captivated by him. But odd things start happening and Richard becomes jealous and possessive. He pulls Kate in with words of love but just as soon pushes her away suddenly cold and calculating. When Kate realizes Richard's true nature, he's not going to willingly give her up, so she returns to a place from her childhood. The Isle of Wight was were her family retreated after her mother left and she holds happy memories of the place.
Kate is on the island when the novel opens. Already unsettled, she's present when an overturned boat is brought into the harbor by a lifeboat. The owner is missing and presumed drowned which she begins obsessing about, so the tone is set and it's an eerie one. The story is then related in a series of flashbacks--both her affair with Richard and subsequent meeting of the drowned woman just days before her death. Both plotlines are woven together and revealed little by little in a way that's somewhat unnerving for the reader as it all builds to a crescendo. Another reviewer called it a slow-burn sort of story, and it is, as nothing is rushed until the final few pages. People often tend to paint themselves into corners when they are involved in unhealthy relationships, and it was troubling that Kate never revealed to her best friend, Helen, the full extent of her fears and experiences with Richard, put off no doubt by her friend's critical attitude toward him. So Kate was well and truly on her own. A sitting duck, if you will, but it played well into the suspense of the story.
The Bed I Made has all the right elements for a good suspense tale--a wildly romantic affair that turns sour and then terrifying, a wonderfully atmospheric setting dictated by the whims of nature, and a character on edge and alone and only inches away from falling into a frightening abyss. I really enjoyed it and thought it well done, but it felt like a really good novel rather than a great novel. I'm not sure that I can put my finger on what made it feel so--maybe it was the ending, which felt just a tad anticlimactic. You knew it was coming and it happened as expected. I think it would be hard to create a really spectacular ending with a nice unexpected twist, but I suppose that's what I was hoping for. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and think Whitehouse has a lot of potential when it comes to thrillers. She's whetted my appetite and now I want more. I've heard mixed things about her first book, The House at Midnight, but as I have it on my TBR stack I'll pick it up at some point. It seems like it might be less of a thriller and more a gothic sort story? I'll be looking for a good edge of your seat thriller as well, though I'm not sure who to pick up. Maybe it's time to try Sophie Hannah? I'm sure I'll enjoy digging through my bins looking for a good nail-biting sort of story to read soon.