“An engaging tale” – Glide by Alison Jean Lester

IMG_12Nov2021at134952I rarely read psychological thrillers these days as I found plots were merging, making individual storylines forgettable. Many were of a similar length with a predictable structure that made them appear formulaic and, at times, padded. I picked up Glide only because I enjoyed the author’s previous work (plus page count is slightly shorter than is typical). I’m glad I did.

Narrated by Leo Coffin, a photographer who teaches at a nearby college, the story is told in short and gripping chapters. Leo has been with his Norwegian wife, Liv, for around five years. When the tale opens he is making her a birthday cake, wanting it to be ready and waiting when he picks her up from the airport later. She has been on a regular trip to her homeland, to visit family and order new stock for her business.

The couple live in Massachusetts and the tale is set over the weeks leading up to Christmas. On that first day, Leo hears footsteps by the back door and opens it to find a stranger lighting candles on a store bought cake. The man is looking for Liv and explains he is her half brother. Leo is unsure how to react as such a relation has never been mentioned. Ingrained good manners compel Leo to allow the stranger to enter his home.

This supposed half brother, Morten, is tall and sporty, handsome and highly personable. Leo finds himself wanting to impress, enjoying the man’s company but remaining wary given Liv has never mentioned him. A sense of foreboding builds as the stranger installs himself in Leo’s space, awaiting Liv’s arrival. This increases when Liv is delayed without offering any explanation.

Morten’s charisma contrasts with Leo’s reticence. Wherever the former leads the latter finds himself following. Leo is kind and polite but he too has secrets. When he shares a nugget with Morten that he has not told Liv, alarm bells ring.

The bones of the story are about secrets partners keep – of their past and how this affects reasoning behind current decisions. Leo would like to have children with Liv but she does not want them. He feels he could better accept her stance if he understood why. Liv has never explained and they have argued over the issue. Despite such previous upsets, Leo still wishes to delve deeper.

What comes to the fore in this tense and engaging tale is how fragile a marriage can be. Love is so often based on a mirage constructed from perception, built on sands that can shift due to unexpected revelations. Secrets can come to seem toxic if held close for too many years. There is fear of reaction, of breaking a trust needed to anchor the relationship.

Breadcrumbs are scattered throughout the tale but these are well managed to ensure the reader is kept guessing. More importantly, the writing remains taut without resorting to sudden changes in character traits in order to get to the next reveal. Certain threads could have been embellished to add further dimensions but key plotlines are developed with dexterity and depth.

The denouement strikes a fine balance between tying up threads and leaving some questions hanging. I particularly liked what the author did with Morten.

The pleasure to be gleaned from reading a psychological thriller is often in the guesses a reader makes when led through the twists and turns of plot and character. As this is a book worth reading I do not wish to spoil it by going into greater detail. Suffice to say even when I guessed correctly the story still held my attention for where it would go next.

I must also mention the illustrations that accompany the text. The shadowy images perfectly complement the unfolding narrative. Given that Leo is a photographer, they are an inspired inclusion.

I would not say this is a perfect story in terms of every word and thread counting but it is certainly an engaging tale – most unusually for me I read it cover to cover in a day. That it held my attention during these distracting times is a credit to the skill of the author in constructing a captivating thriller.

Any Cop?: A highly charged and ultimately satisfying read.

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