The Back Road
Length Of Time In Possession : 1 week
The Back Road by Rachel Abbott begins with a startling prologue of two children trapped in a cupboard, then introduces us to Leo Harris, a 20 something returning to the village she grew up in. Leo had an unhappy childhood marked by meanness and tragedy, but her sister Ellie, psychologically trapped by the mysteries of their childhood has chosen to buy and renovate the house they grew up in, unable to let go of the past; because of her sisters relocation, Leo too is forced to confront the past.
No more than it was when Leo was a child, Little Melham is a place of secrets. Ellie is hiding a stalker she can't dissuade and is terrified her husband is having an affair; yet the biggest secret comes in the form of local 14 year old Abbie Campbell. Abbie has been knocked down on The Back Road in a Hit and Run, but who knocked Abbie down and why was she even there?
There was a lot I liked about The Back Road, certain sections of the writing were very sharp, particularly the prologue, and the section in which Abbie is being chased. I really liked Leo Harris as a character, flawed, but strong : a survivor. I liked Ellie somewhat less, and felt like she could do with a good shake!
I found the dinner party sequence a little overlong, as a soiree, I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed it particularly, at times very uncomfortable and cringe, not for the reader, but if you imagined yourself present. I struggled for a while to see why so many chapters were devoted to it, until I realised that it was all a clue to the whodunnit, and who may or may not have been culpable for the hit and run.
I actually live in Cheshire, or thereabouts, and I felt that at times the location of the story was over emphasised or over signposted, and need not have been reiterated more than once. Though the purpose is to signify that the village is small, populated by the comfortable, and in some respects remote, lending itself to a "locked room" mystery of sorts. (The culprit can only be a local) this is something that the reader can infer themselves.
As we reached the denouement, there is an element of inordinate drama, a little over the top, and some loose ends are a little too neatly tied. Yet, some other elements of the conclusion surprise.
All in all, for me, I could clearly imagine this novel as an ITV crime/mystery drama, one that would work well and be popular. ITV recently adapted Erin Kelly's The Poison Tree and I could see The Back Road fitting the same bill scheduling wise.
A good mystery novel, which for once, is more about the secrets and lies of people's personal lives instead of the well worn police procedural format.
Verdict : 7/10
Destination : ebook storage