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In Too Deep is a compulsive psychological thriller which kept me gripped throughout. It’s told by Maura, who’s run away from her life as wife and mother after the death of her best friend Kim, for which she feels responsible. But why?

As the story unfolds we learn that Maura’s perfect life in a small village was disrupted by the arrival of local reporter Kim – glamorous, sophisticated, predatory and very, very sharp. The most obvious story is that Kim would steal Maura’s husband Nick like a cuckoo in the nest; but this is not what happens, in a refreshing twist. Instead the two women form an unlikely but genuine friendship, in the face of hostility from the locals and particularly from Nick. Kim’s cynical attitude towards men is the only thing that naive Maura finds difficult to contend with, as she is so happily married; but Kim has already spotted Nick as the monster he really is. As the villagers’ tolerance of Kim reaches breaking point, Maura finds that her marriage is under pressure, and Nick’s response is to become violent. Before long, Kim is dead and Maura is in hiding. But a journalist is on her tail, determined to discover the truth…

The slow descent of Maura and Nick’s marriage into domestic violence is chilling and all too plausible; I often felt my insides clenching with the realistic horror of it. The friendship between the two women is also portrayed very convincingly, as you can both see the flaws in their relationship and the genuine alliance and mutual respect of two people who don’t quite fit. Kim’s influence on Maura comes across as a real liberation from a stultifying life, and the vile locals are truly worth hating. After reading this novel, I felt that perhaps Maura actions towards the end of the novel were slightly jarring, but women in abusive relationships are often forced to make difficult choices so maybe it just didn’t sit quite right for me. But ultimately this didn’t impact on my experience of the story, and I was gripped throughout, wanting justice for both women.

This is Bea Davenport’s first adult novel and it shows real promise; if you enjoy Sophie Hannah’s stories, definitely give this one a try! ***

Legend Press, 2013, ISBN 9781909395299

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