‘No Turning Back’ by Tracy Buchanan

No turning back

Radio Presenter Anna Graves has just returned to work following her maternity leave. The subject of her first broadcast – Has the war on drugs failed?

Later in the day when she is walking on the beach with her daughter, she is attacked by a young, crazed man. Thoughts of the earlier radio show come back to her and, in a bid to protect her daughter, she fights back with fatal results. The police and the community around her applaud her for acting in self-defence and saving her daughter, but all Anna can see if the young man’s blood on her hands.

The young man’s family are distraught, demanding justice for their boy who they claim wasn’t capable of the attack that Anna blamed him for. And when the post mortem reveals something unexpected, questions start to be asked about just how innocent Anna is and whether her involvement in the boy’s death was more than just an unfortunate coincidence. Because the boy had been poisoned in a way similar to a string of murders from twenty years ago. Murders which her father had been obsessed with investigating and which may ultimately have led to him taking his own life.

When Anna starts to receive threatening letters from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’ the nickname given to the murderer all those years ago, her life begins to fall apart. The community and her friends begin to turn on her and when she finds the body of another young boy, the finger of suspicion points right towards her. With support from a most unexpected source, Anna determines to try and find out who is tormenting her and targeting her family. Can she get to the bottom of it all before the killer succeeds in taking away the only things she has – her freedom and her beautiful baby daughter.

‘No Turning Back’ is an intriguing story. From the very opening chapter the reader knows that there is something sinister going on, that a young boy’s life is at stake. And from there the story grows. We are taken through Anna’s life, her return to work, the pain following her separation from her husband and her absolute devotion to her daughter. Anna is a character that you grow to like. Renowned for her straight talking on her radio show, her thoughts and preconceptions about the poorer parts of town are informed by her upbringing. She loves her grandmother but has a more fractious relationship with her mother and brother, their relationship slowly breaking down after her father died. But one thing is clear, she would do anything to protect her daughter. Anna is a sympathetically drawn character who ultimately has a good heart but is pressed into doing something she would never have dreamed she was capable of.

The story is told mostly in the third person and yet the passages which take us back into the past to the previous murders which darkened the town all those years ago, it is in the first person, through the eyes of the killer. The commentary is just vague enough to acknowledge that the killer did not work alone, but as to who they are and who their accomplice might be, the reader is left clueless. There is enough ambiguity in the narrative that it could be anyone who is talking; male, female, daughter, father. There is enough deflection and suspicious characters around the action that the ending truly does come as a surprise.

The nature of the investigation against Anna, and how a few carefully placed comments and press reports can inform and thus suddenly change public opinion well observed. The tension builds gradually, as Anna is targeted by the Ophelia Killer, chipping away at her nerves and making her question everything she thought might be true, even whether or not her father was guilty of the earlier murders. Characters are very cleverly observed; the grieving parents, the judgemental friends, even the one token bitch at the office who for some reason really doesn’t like Anna. If I were to levy any criticism it would be that the incident between Anna and her co-host did seem a little superfluous – although it did serve the harden public opinion of her, I don’t think it added to the story.

This was a great story, full of intrigue, tension and twists. I look forward to reading more by Tracy Buchanan.

4 stars

My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Harper Collins UK, Avon for the ARC of ‘No Turning Back’ in exchange for my review.

‘No Turning Back’ is available to buy here:

Amazon UK