‘Only Daughter’ by Sarah A. Denzil ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The must-read psychological thriller for 2019 from the million-copy-bestselling author of The Silent Child.

‘Your daughter is dead.’

When Kat Cavanaugh hears the words every mother dreads, her perfect world shatters. She takes in the beautiful long blonde hair, torn yellow dress and chipped blue nail-varnish. It can’t be real.

And then the police add the word ‘suicide’. But Kat refuses to believe them.

Even when they show her the familiar loop handwriting and smudged ink on the note her little girl left behind. She knows her bubbly, vivacious daughter would never take her own life.

As she searches Grace’s perfume scented room, filled with smiling photos, she uncovers secrets her little girl had been hiding. Secrets that could put her in terrible danger too.

But Kat’s determined to find out what really happened to Grace on the night she died, whatever it takes…

This addictive and heart-pounding psychological thriller will keep you gripped late into the night.

Thank you to Bookoture, NetGalley and Sarah A. Denzil for the chance to read and review this book.

Wow! Ms. Denzil had me on the edge of my seat and reading well past bedtime as I found it impossible to put this book down. I’ve been a fan of her work since I first discovered her last year, but this is her best book yet and one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year.

Kat Cavanaugh lives in Ash Dale, Derbyshire, with her husband Charles and their seventeen-year-old daughter Grace. After Grace is found at the bottom of the quarry, also known as the Suicide Spot, Kat’s world falls apart. When the police rule the death a suicide she refuses to accept that her ebullient daughter would take her own life. But as she investigates and learns some of the secrets Grace had been hiding,  Kat is forced to face the fact she hardly knew her daughter at all. Could one of these secrets have lead to her death?

Things take an ominous turn when Kat starts receiving threatening messages from an anonymous number. When they refer to Kat’s troubled past she her worries someone hurt Grace because of her. Both these things only increase her determination to uncover the truth and she begins to take drastic steps, alienating not only her friends but her husband too, as she becomes increasingly desperate for answers. But Kat could be in more danger than she imagines from an enemy she never suspects…

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the flawed characters. The protagonist is a rich woman who comes from a council estate, has a checkered history and has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. I thought the choice for Kat to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder was interesting and added an edge to both the character and the story. People with that diagnosis are considered sociopaths who can’t love and get through life by mimicking emotions, acting the part and a lack of remorse for their actions. But while Kat admits to the latter, she truly loves her daughter and will do anything for her, including quelling her true nature to be a better example. This endeared Kat to me and saved her from being a cold, unsympathetic character. Also, seeing someone who doesn’t really have or process emotions like most of us do trying to work her way through grief and find out what happened to her child was unique. The author did a fantastic job of writing Kat in an honest way, conveying her inner turmoil not only at the loss of her daughter and need for answers, but about her lack of other feelings, her past and true nature.

Another character I thought was particularly well written was Kat’s mother. While I’m fortunate to have a wonderful mother myself, I sadly recognised others in this vile, hateful, disgusting, and poisonous woman. She made me so angry every time she was on the page. With a mother who treated her so badly it is no wonder Kat acted out in her teens and had a personality disorder. For me the malevolence of this character is perfectly expressed in this great line: “I can feel the dark tendrils of her poison worming through my veins”. This evoked visions of Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid, her black tentacles wrapping around Kat and perforating the skin to administer the poison.

The author teases you with crumbs of information early on that had me hooked and impatient to find out what they meant. What exactly did Kat do as a teenager that was so unforgivable? What had happened to Grace? For most of the book I felt sure Kat would be proven right about Grace begin killed but I did waver for a while at one point. I’m obviously not going to spoil the ending telling you which was right, but I did think the author did a great job of making it impossible to feel sure that you know how it ends.

Only Daughter is gripping tale of secrets, lies, grief, betrayal, and devastating revenge. I loved that the book was set locally to me as I felt connected to it immediately and more invested, as if these people could be ones I knew, especially Kat as we both started life on a council estate less than 30 minutes apart. The whole book was wonderfully written and the descriptive language put you in the protagonist’s mindset so vividly that you could be her at that moment. The story never lost momentum and was filled with maddening, moving and jarring twists. I didn’t see the big reveal coming and the heart-stopping, dramatic finale was a nail biting read. This is a thriller you don’t want to miss.

Out March 13th

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