Blurb: When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.
But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…
That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.
She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?
As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…
My Rating: 5/5
Review: When I heard about this book I was intrigued not least because I live in a cottage in rural Scotland and know Aberdeen reasonably well, but I also liked the sound of the story so when I got the option to review it and take part in the blog tour I couldn’t possibly turn it down.
Moving from somewhere built up and busy, especially a city like Glasgow, to the countryside is a big shock to the system, even more so when you move to a new area like Aberdeenshire where you are away from friends and family. Aberdeen to Glasgow is about a 3-4 hour drive if there are no major delays or roadworks so it’s not easy for Shona to simply pop home to her family and friends after moving so far away. That distance and the isolation of the cottage does nothing to help her settle in. Neither does the quiet that you get in the countryside, at night there is simply no sound except for owls and other animals and that can come as a massive shock if you aren’t used to it. For me this isolation, sudden change of environment and feeling of being stranded miles from anywhere came across quite clearly in the book. I love where I live but it isn’t for everyone and Shona clearly struggles being on her own in the cottage with a 4 month old and being overtired. Deciding to put Isla into childcare for a few hours so she can get out of the house, Shona meets Valentina who becomes her new best friend. The two bond over their children who are a similar age, and the fact that neither of them grew up in the area and from that their friendship grows. However there is more to this story than a friendship and for that you will need to read the book because if I say more I risk spoiling it and I definitely don’t want to do that.
From my rating you’ll already have guessed that I loved this book and you’d be correct. I would have finished it in a day had I not ended up being distracted by a sick pet and then been too tired to continue reading. The story grabs you from the first page and then continues to drag you in further as it goes on. There were times I guessed at what was happening and in some cases I was right or not far off but still I kept reading because there were still so many twists, surprises and lies to come. When I was anything up to 50% through I though I had an idea of where the story was going but while I was partially correct I was still way off in some respects, there were so many things that I hadn’t even considered. Most of the story is Shona’s which had me wondering why the book was called Valentina because she didn’t seem to have much of a role in all of this but that’s where I was wrong. While she may not be in the story as much as Shona is her part in it is pivotal, she is involved far more than is immediately obvious and there is so much more depth to her that becomes apparent later, without her the story would be quite flat and boring, her involvement is what makes it what it is.
I loved the writing style. I also liked the way we got little sections of a page or two of an event that clearly came later and that the story was leading up to, there was enough of that to pique my interest but not so much that it was entirely obvious what was going on or who was doing it. The characters were well rounded though Mikey was a bit irritating and I shouted at Shona a few times for apologising for things that were not her fault but those things just made them more realistic for me. I liked that some parts of Aberdeen were used and, for anyone who has visited or lives there, would be easily recognisable. While I have nothing against fictional towns and cities in books I felt that the use of a real one here gave it more depth and anchored the story more than a fictional city might. I also liked the ending, for me it fitted with everything else and was, I feel, the best solution to the problem.
This book is getting a lot of praise and quite rightly so, for a debut book it is quite simply astonishingly brilliant. This is one of the best books I have read this year so far and given I’m currently on book 62 that is not a comment to be taken lightly. If you want a psychological thriller that will draw you in, keep you guessing all the way through and have you lose track of time then this is probably the book for you. I’m thrilled I agreed to be part of this blog tour and I will definitely be looking out for future books by this author, definitely one to watch.
Many thanks to Blackbird Digital books for letting me have a copy in exchange for an honest review.