Today I’m delighted to join the blog tour for 11 Missed Calls by Elisabeth Carpenter. My thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books UK for inviting me to join the tour. I have an exclusive extract to share with you all just as soon as we’ve seen what the book is all about.
About the Book
Here are two things I know about my mother:
1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.
Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.
But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.
Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.
And then a body is found…
11 Missed Call
by Elisabeth Carpenter
I had been desperate to meet someone, perhaps have children – a family of my own. I’m not sure I would be in so much of a rush, had I the chance to start again; I was far too young, but I had no friends and hardly ever went out. I had just finished university and was applying for at least twenty jobs a week.
Before the first class, Monica took me into Boots to have a makeover.
‘Could you do something with her eyebrows?’ she said to the lady dressed in white – plastered in thick foundation and bright-red lipstick. ‘They’ve gone a bit wild.’
‘Monica!’ I said through gritted teeth, as I sat on a pedestal for everyone in the shop to see.
‘We might as well, while we’re here.’
After my face had been transformed, Monica took me to the hairdressers: my first visit for several years.
‘She has beautiful hair,’ Monica said to the stylist, ‘but perhaps we could put some highlights at the front … to frame her lovely face.’
On the way home, I caught sight of myself in her car’s vanity mirror and got a fright. I didn’t look like me any more.
When I walked into the classroom that evening, I thought Jack was the teacher. He was standing at the front, talking to the students with such confidence. But when he opened his mouth, he spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent and was worse at Spanish than I was. I learned that he’d stayed in Lancashire after university, after his parents abandoned him to go and live in Brighton.
Jack said I wasn’t like other women he met. ‘You’re an innocent, Anna. It’s like you’ve been sheltered from the world.’
But that was my act – the character I chose to present to others at that time. Self-preservation. I didn’t even look like the real me. I could act like I had no silly fears − of heights, swimming pools, and other irrational things. But I couldn’t pretend forever. When I confessed my greatest fears three months later, Jack hadn’t laughed at me. ‘They’re perfectly reasonable phobias,’ he’d said. ‘But life’s about risk sometimes.’
11 Missed Calls is probably what I would class as a suspenseful mystery. It’s not quite dark enough to be a domestic noir, but it is definitely dramatic and perhaps domestic suspense or domestic mystery would be better titles, if indeed it is necessary to try to classify it at all. No matter which genre you try and shoehorn it into, what it is, first and foremost, is an intelligent and engaging story which drew me in and held my attention to the very last page.
Told in a dual timeline, these are the stories of Debbie and Anna, separated for 30 years in the most mysterious of circumstances. Long presumed dead, Debbie disappeared whilst on a family holiday but her daughter Anna has long wondered what became of her mother, building up her expectations to almost impossible heights. Her brother is less interested, scarred by the memories he has of the mother he loved and her father has moved on, finding love again in the arms of her mother’s best friend. But when they get a letter out of the blue declaring that Debbie may still be alive, Anna will stop at nothing to find the truth of what happened.
Now I loved the way the author has created the characters in this book. Anna is more than a little obsessed, borderline neurotic, when it comes to her mother and Elisabeth Carpenter has drawn her so richly that you can see the moments in which her obsession shifts up a gear, but also get a clear picture of the trials she has faced along the course of her childhood. Add in a few home grown concerns and you have a woman who is pushed closer to the edge and on the verge of destroying all she loves. She is a very likeable character, essential as she is the focus of more than half of the story, but she is someone I felt for and her struggles felt believable.
Debbie is the focus of the other half of the story as we are taken back to the time immediately after she had Anna. Now we already have an inkling of what is to come before we start into the heart of the story but as you read on it is very clear to the reader what is happening and where this particular thread will lead. Well … at least I say it’s clear. There is one small curveball thrown in. When reading these chapters it was easy for me to spot the signs but bearing in mind that this was the eighties, I think the author pitched the mystery over Debbie’s disappearance perfectly. It will make sense to a reader with the benefit of thirty years more clarity.
Now there are moments of great tension, times when you are plunged into uncertainty and where the author forces you to question what you believe and they are written very well. There are characters whose motives and actions you will doubt, even at times the central protagonists, but there is also an emotional side to the story which will have you feeling for the family who have been left devastated by the sadness of loss without the benefit of full closure. So many secrets, so many parts of the past left unsaid, that it is this which compels you onward with reading, trying to find out what happened. That said, the pacing is slower in this than some other psychological dramas, but it fits the tone of the story and it is the story of family, not the thrill of the mystery, which makes this such a compelling read.
So are you intrigued? Well, why not buy a copy of 11 Missed Calls and find out more about Anna and Jack and just why Anna is choosing to hide herself from the world. It is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2008.
Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award, and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment.
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