Better than Dostoevsky*
*may not actually be true
When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?
I should start with being honest; I have never read a Dostoevsky novel. I did once start ‘Crime and Punishment’ but I found it a little hard going and, dare I say it, a little boring. So that is one thing Lucy V Hay’s debut novel, The Other Twin, has on Dostoevsky; I actually finished reading it! Today in fact, so I thought I would break my duck of posting here for a while and write a little review.
I’m not normally one for crime/thriller novels, I tend to veer more towards Horror and Sci-Fi (although I guess there are potential parallels and cross-overs, as with any genre) so I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for. The last similar novel I read was the Girl on the Train, which I read more or less because of promotion for the film and some hype around the book so thought I would give it a go. I enjoyed it. I didn’t find it particularly challenging, but it was a good, if occasionally predictable, read.
So why The Other Twin? Well, I follow Lucy on Twitter and Facebook, particular through the Bang2Writers group where I hang around hoping to grab a few writing crumbs as they fall from real writers’ tables. On those pages, Lucy has obviously been promoting the hell out of her pending arrival so, on 3rd July, I placed my order and started reading a few days later.
So, is it any good?
Yep. It is.
So, there you go, you can go and buy it with confidence.
Lucy has produced a complex, tightly plotted story that revels in its setting (Brighton) and its characters. Anyone who knows even a little about Lucy will know that she is passionate about diversity, so it is no surprise that her story revolves around a very diverse group of characters. While diversity is important to the development of the plot, it is introduced so naturally it does not become a story ABOUT diversity, but simply a diverse story. So while we visit a world populated with a variety of cultures and sexualities, we get to concentrate on the strained relationships and dangerous secrets that seem to be held by every single character we meet along the way. Even incidental characters such as kitchen hands and bar workers feel like they probably have a few skeletons in their closets!
Lucy writes with a confident voice and immediately sweeps you up into the story world she has created. I am not going to discuss the plot in any great detail, as that would be to spoil the twisty-turny nature of her narrative, but the story gets going immediately, sweeping us along with Poppy as she searches for the truth behind her sister’s suicide… or is it murder? Unlike The Girl on the Train, which felt a little predictable, The Other Twin is full of surprises and shocks and at least one “Oh shit” moment. Some readers may feel there are, perhaps, one too many twists – they really do some thick and fast – but, ultimately, the story doesn’t suffer for it. The story builds and build to a rapid conclusion and the ending comes so quickly, you almost don’t have time to try to figure it all out as you read! You will find yourself thinking it over afterwards but this is by no means a bad thing. There are a few questions left unanswered, but I like that; I like to be challenged and I like to have things to think about after the fact. It really would be boring if every story wrapped up all its threads nice and neatly at the end.
The momentum of the book is reinforced by its short, sharp chapter structure, which has few chapters more than a couple of pages long. I don’t know whether this was deliberate or perhaps a reflection of Lucy’s experience with screenwriting (short sharp scenes) but it means the reader is never allowed to get bored and is an excellent way to keep you reading; ‘oh, just three more pages….okay then, just a couple more.’
Ultimately, The Other Twin is a deceptively simple story entwined with a complex plot that is elusive, but never overly complicated. It is fun to read and smartly written. I may not be a voracious consumer of crime fiction, but I will certainly keep an eye out for the next book from Lucy.