Today I am thrilled to share my thoughts on First Born by Will Dean as part of the blog tour. My thanks to publisher Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy of the book for review, and the tour invite. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
THE LAST THING A TWIN EXPECTS IS TO BE ALONE …
Molly lives a quiet, contained life in London. Naturally risk averse, she gains comfort from security and structure. Every day the same.
Her identical twin Katie is her exact opposite: gregarious and spontaneous. They used to be inseparable, until Katie moved to New York a year ago. Molly still speaks to her daily without fail.
But when Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in New York, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. Katie is part of her DNA. As terrifying as it is, she must go there and find out what happened. As she tracks her twin’s last movements, cracks begin to emerge. Nothing is what it seems.And a web of deceit is closing around her.
Delivering the same intensity of pace and storytelling that made THE LAST THING TO BURN a word-of-mouth sensation, FIRST BORN will surprise, shock and enthral.
I have been a fan of Will Dean’s books right since I picked up the very first Tuva novel after Granite Noir. I eagerly await his next book and I haven’t found one that disappoints yet. Having read First Born over just a couple of evenings, it’s safe to say, I still haven’t. This is the story of Katie and Molly, identical twins living two very, very different lives on either side of the Atlantic. When Molly receives a call from her parents telling her that Katie has died, she makes the journey to New York, not just to support her parents and bring her sister home, but to try and understand exactly what has happened. What follows is an emotional, often tense, and ultimately surprising voyage of discovery and one which kept my attention absolutely glued to the page.
Now it would be very easy, at several points in this story, to get a little cocksure, and to be certain that you know what is happening or, at the very least, what has happened. I’d bet you a pound to a penny that you really don’t. Will Dean has crafted a very clever, twisted and dark novel which is so full of misdirection that you could be setting off for what you think is the Bronx only to find yourself on Staten Island. There are many unexpected twists and turns in this book, one which in some cases I did predict, but many others that left me with a very satisfied smile on my face as I got to grips with the levels of Mr Dean’s subterfuge. Not only is there a real mystery at the heart of the book – what happened to Katie – but there is a whole lot of threat, tension and shocks in store that will keep the author’s fans thoroughly satisfied. There is also an emotional edge as he explores the impact that the loss of Katie has on her friends, her parents, but ultimately on the other half of her – sister Molly.
Character is key in this novel and in the two sisters it is clear that we have two very diverse personalities. Whilst the little we know about Katie shows her has being adventurous and daring, setting one her own to study in New York, Molly is the polar opposite. Nervous and cautious to the point of almost paranoia, she is someone driven by ritual. Some of her behaviour seems extreme, but is in keeping with her personality and adds a kind of unpredictability about the whole story. It also adds an intensity to her investigations and her interactions with some of the more questionable characters we meet throughout the course of the book. I liked her, in a fashion, I could feel her emotion, but I wasn’t always entirely convinced by her. Little quirks of character that kept me on edge perhaps.
This is a book which is really in two halves. The first part if very much given over to the initial aftermath of Katie’s death and learning more about the family unit as a whole. It also sets up some very key plot twists which keep the story just taught enough to stop us on high alert, But it is from the midway point that there is a real step change. A key revelation which marks out the two halves of the book as being as diverse as Katie and Molly themselves. There is also a change of pace and a few explosive scenes which really do lead us towards a dramatic and, it’s fair to say, wholly unexpected conclusion. They do say it’s the quiet ones you should watch. Again, just as I thought I had a got this whole book sussed, Will Dean pulls the rug out from under us and hits us square in the face with another blinding twist.
You do get a great sense of people in place from this book, but it’s certainly a very different tone from his other books, in a really good way. It examines the familial relationships, particularly in the case of twins, in a way that isn’t always about sugar coated psychic links and sisterly intuition. Compelling, sometimes emotional, full of twists and surprises, it’s bound to be another fan favourite and definitely a recommended read.
About the Author
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands and had lived in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying Law at the LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden where he built a house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club, shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize and named a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. Red Snow was published in January 2019 and won Best Independent Voice at the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards, 2019. Black River was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Award in 2021. The Last Thing to Burn was released to widespread acclaim in January 2021.
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