When Sophie Finch returns home from a night out with a police escort having been found wandering drunk and alone, her mother Karen is immediately worried, blaming Sophie’s friends for having allowed her to get into such a sorry state and abandoning her. With Sophie uttering something incoherent about her friend Amy, and her behaviour being so erratic, Karen begins to suspect that there is something more wrong with Sophie and perhaps even Amy. When she contacts Amy’s mother only to find out that she never returned home, the worry begins to change to panic and when a young girl’s body is found near to where the police found Sophie, everyone fears the worst.
When Sophie wakes the next day, she can remember nothing of what happened on the night out, least of all what she said to Karen about Amy. When she starts to receive emails showing her in a drunken state, she dismisses them as one of her friends playing tricks on her. When one of the pictures triggers a memory, Sophie begins to realise that she may have been there when the murder took place. That she may have seen her killer. Too scared to confide in her mother, Sophie tries to ignore the emails, but her growing unease, as well as a suspicion that she may have a stalker, forces Sophie to be honest with Karen. Mostly honest.
Karen has her own problems, ones which Sophie does not want to exacerbate. A few years ago, Karen was the victim of a serious assault, which has left her with debilitating case of agoraphobia. As Sophie begins to open up to Karen, she realises that she has a few secrets of her own, ones which may have made Sophie an unwitting target of a stalker and murderer.
‘Saving Sophie’ is an outstanding debut thriller. I read the first chapter on my phone whilst on a lunchtime walk and I realised straight away that this was a book that deserved my full attention. And boy did it get it. From the start you knew that something was very wrong, sharing Karen’s concern that Sophie must have been drugged to fail to remember anything at all from the night before. None of the characters appear trustworthy, all hiding an element of the truth and being very selective in not only what they tell the police, but what they tell each other. You do not know who to trust, who was involved in the murder. The only people you feel are truly honest in their actions are the grieving mother, hurt by what she sees as her friend’s betrayal for not getting over her fears to go and visit her, and Bailey, the Finch’s dog.
After chapter 1, I read through this in pretty much one sitting. It was a ‘sitting-forward-in-your-seat’, ‘take-your-kindle-to-the-bathroom’ kind of read. I just didn’t want to put it down. The tension was high throughout. The characters were compelling, as much as their motivations for deception as any sympathy for their plight. I found myself frustrated by Sophie’s unwillingness to go to the police, but also understanding her fears that exposure of the photographs would embarrass not only her but her mother. She is a seventeen-year-old girl. It is pretty typical that ignoring them was her first line of defence. And Karen’s condition is so convincingly written that you can feel the onset of her anxiety attacks, the absolute dread she feels in dealing with anything that pushes her out of her comfort zone. It also makes her final act to save Sophie all the more compelling and touching. No matter what, she would do anything for her daughter.
Sam Carrington has done an excellent job in creating menace throughout the story. From the simple understated e-mails to Sophie, to the interspersed anonymous e-mail communications which grow progressively more suffocating and aggressive as the story moves towards the conclusion, there are many tricks used to slowly build up the story to its shocking finale. It touches on key issues of the current era, the darker side of internet dating and the belief of the teenage generation that they are untouchable, those barely more than children who feel like everything is just a game. It is also a story of jealousy and its impacts on friendship, and a long held need for revenge.
It is just, put simply, a brilliantly told story.
My thanks to publishers Harper Collins UK, Avon and NetGalley for the ARC of ‘Saving Sophie’ by Sam Carrington in exchange for my review.
‘Saving Sophie’ is availble to buy here: