Monday, 2 November 2015

Book review: 24 Hours by Claire Seeber

"My best friend, Emily, is dead – killed last night in a hotel fire.

But it was meant to be me.

Now I have 24 hours to find my daughter.
Before he finds out I’m still alive.

24 Hours is a fast-paced, intelligent psychological thriller that will leave you breathless."

Boy in the Bookshop

24 Hours is hands down one of the best thrillers I've read this year. It's fast paced, gripping and has you eager to find out what happened from the very first page. 

The story follows Laurie, who we meet in the aftermath of a large explosion at the hotel she's staying at, which kills her best friend Emily. However, Laurie fully believes that it wasn't an accident, and that it was meant to be her that was killed. Scared that someone wants to kill her, and possibly her daughter, she races off to find her daughter, Polly, who has been away on holiday with her Mum. 

24 Hours is split into two types of chapters - present day, with each chapter covering one hour within the 24 hour period after the fire, and the past,  which looks into Laurie's complex and rather dangerous relationship with her separated husband, Sid. I felt that the split chapters are what created such a gripping plot - most chapters in the present day were left on a cliffhanger which had you racing to find out more. 

In a weird way I enjoyed the flashbacks delving into her past- I say weird way as it's a difficult past she's experienced, with many dark times. We learn Laurie and Sid's relationship was toxic, she was constantly walking on eggshells as Sid could be violent or difficult, and even though they clearly have deep feelings for each other, they aren't right for each other. During these flashbacks we learn more about Laurie's friendship with Emily, her best friend, who supports her during difficult times and clearly dislikes Sid. We also meet Mal, a man who's son is in Polly's school, and who takes a liking to Laurie. At first, I was eager for them to get together, for Laurie to let her guard down and be with a man who seems kind and caring. However Mal's ex comes to stir up trouble- saying he gets too involved and becomes obsessed with the women he feels for. With any other story, I'd have thought this was a case of a woman scorned and not believe her for a second. However, because of the complexity of 24 hours and the way you never quite know what's happening, doubts niggled in my mind. Should Laurie trust him? Or could he have been behind the fire? I don't want to spoil it so I won't say any more, but it just shows how Claire Seeber has created a real psychological thriller where it's difficult to trust even the nicest of characters. 

Occasionally, I thought I knew what was going on and who was behind the fire and chasing Laurie, so I'd sit rather smugly thinking 'ha, nice try, but I've got this'..... only for something to happen that dispelled my idea and had me further questioning what on earth was going on. Serves me right for being smug I guess! Like Laurie, I was clueless throughout, but I certainly didn't trust any of the characters in the story. 

Claire Seeber is a truly talented author, this is the first book I've read by her, and it's introduced me to her fantastic writing style and ability to create suspense. From the offset you see the sheer terror and frantic worry that is hanging over Laurie, and her desperation to find her daughter safe. The emotions portrayed not only from Laurie, but throughout 24 hours, are complex and expertly crafted by Claire Seeber, and really show off her brilliance. 

All the characters in 24 Hours are complex and guarded, clearly hiding secrets and dealing with their feelings. Polly provides some light relief from heavy situations as well as Emily, who we see from the flashbacks was a caring and kind friend. The most complex character is Sid, who in his own messed up way really does seem to love Laurie, but he can't stop hurting her - emotionally and physically. I wanted to scream to Laurie to cut ties with him and stop going back to him as it was clearly not going to end well, especially when he gets a new girlfriend, young pop singer Jolie. Jolie acts care-free about Laurie and Poppy, but clearly isn't happy about Sid's inability to cut himself off from them. 

The whole of the story is leading up to a big climax, and the build-up towards it is incredible. I just couldn't put this book down, I read it over two days (if I hadn't been working it would have easily been in one sitting!) as it's just impossible to find a good point to put it down. I didn't guess the ending at all, it was a big shock to me and there's also a huge twist which shocked me too. 

Claire Seeber is brilliant, as is 24 hours. A gritty, thrilling read that has you hooked from the first page. I loved the complexity of the characters and their emotions and how difficult it was to work out what happened - there are so many twists and turns with this intricate plot that you never quite know where it's going to lead to next. A fantastic read that I'd highly recommend. 

*A big thank you to the publishers of 24 Hours, Bookouture, for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 


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