Pounding on the door. My seven-year-old son shaking me awake. My head fuzzy with sleeping pills. The hallway flashing with blue light.
This morning my life will change forever.
Alex Kendrew is juggling single parenthood, work and dating; with a wild, impetuous streak that’s hard to keep in check, she struggles to find a balance and feels perpetually guilty for the choices she makes.
In K.A. Masson’s domestic noir thriller, Alex begins a passionate affair when an old flame gets in touch.
But one morning, the police arrest her for his attempted murder.
Someone is framing her; can she prove her innocence as the evidence mounts against her?
Author K.A. Masson lives in London with her teenage son and their black cat Slinky, and she has worked in design for over 20 years, bringing to life the words of others.
She began writing Alter Ego, her debut novel, almost by accident. She emailed Faber Academy on a day when someone had just pulled out of their ‘Start Your Novel In A Week’ course. Without that stroke of luck, she may never have got further than the first few chapters.
She has always loved books with a psychological element; My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and the Dublin Murders series by Tana French are among her favourite books.
She is fascinated by the crazy things that normal people do, when pushed by anger, fear, jealousy, and hatred.
She is an avid runner, loves cinema, photography and art. She couldn’t live without coffee and is a decent meringue baker.
“I think the best thing about writing a book is the feeling of entering a completely new world”
Keep up with the authors latest news at her website
Connect with the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter
PROLOGUE – NOW
“‘Mum, wake up. Mum, there’s someone at the door.’
I was dreaming, surely. My son had finally passed the age where he woke up at five every single morning. Still, the arrival of parenthood brought with it an end to uninterrupted nights and, for me anyway, the ability to sleep though anything.
Except for on this occasion. It wasn’t a dream. Ned was shaking my shoulder, with all the strength his whippet-thin, seven-year-old frame would allow”
PART 1 – FOUR YEARS EARLIER
“Hi, I’m grabbing five minutes between meetings so I thought I’d send you a quick message! Love your profile – I’m a fellow Scot – I was born in Glasgow but no longer have the accent, unfortunately! Anything more you’d like to know about me, please feel free to drop me a line. Mal”
MEMORABLE LINES FROM THE BOOK
“Not having children together, we didn’t have that joint investment, the glue that bonds couples even if eventually it comes apart, like a photograph coming loose from its page in an album, the sticky squares drying out and turning to dust”
“How far would you go to prove your innocence?”
This is definitely a book of two halves, but blend them together and you have a “domestic noir” novel which far belies its debut status.
I do have to be honest though and confess that at about the 25% marker, I was on the point of putting the book to one side, for no other reason than the volume of quite graphic and erotic sex scenes it contained, some of which were fairly violent and unpleasant, although compellingly raw and perceptive, and I just couldn’t see where this journey was leading me. I began to wonder at Alex’s lack of morals and parenting skills, especially as she is, to all intents and purposes, a single mother! A new date almost every night, with her young son Ned being farmed out to a different babysitter each time, and then to hear her bemoaning her lack of control and vowing to become a better mother and put her son first! She just seems to be hellbent on a suicide mission and very much the architect of her own demise.
Just goes to show you how easily fooled you can be, when a consummate storyteller and plot builder, who wields total authority and maturity in their writing, gets their hands on a great idea!
Boy! Am I pleased I decide to keep reading, as I ended up by not being able to turn the pages fast enough, in an effort to find out what happened next, when one of Alex’s dates meets his end and Alex herself is in the frame for his murder. What happened thereafter, all culminated in a tense, edge-of-the-seat finish, which never looked like it was going to end well, despite the perpetrator having been unmasked to me, not by me, at that time. Once the dust settles, and although things are still a little touch and go, there is a small glimmer of hope and optimism for Alex and Ned to build their lives upon going forward, so let’s hope that common sense prevails and leads to a brighter more fulfilled future, which holds more promise than the troubled past they can now hopefully leave behind them.
This multi-layered, intense storyline is a slow burner, which has been beautifully crafted and structured, by an author who totally owns the journey and all the characters she gathers around her. During the first half of the book, the scenery is expertly laid out, with the suspects all taking their places on the stage, and there are many of them, believe me! Red herrings are deliberately placed to trip up the unwary reader, which they did me, several times. And so this game of cat and mouse began. My suspect list was vast and it wasn’t until the identity of the real perpetrator became so obvious that even I couldn’t miss it, could I discard the many other names I still had left to eliminate. So many faces in the frame, so many motives, so many lies and so much deceit, it was like actually being inside a real-life game of ‘Cluedo’
The second half of this tense and textured story deals exclusively with the fallout and aftermath of the crime, when everyone else is busy covering their tracks, leaving Alex to face the music alone. I don’t think I have ever read such a detailed and realistic treatment of a time spent in police custody and the procedural work in processing and progressing an investigation, I was lost in time and physically with Alex all the way through her emotionally draining and soul destroying ordeal. The fluid dialogue was tight, relevant and punchy throughout. The tense narrative, gripping, disturbingly observational and vividly descriptive to the very end; and when the police threw in that one final gut wrenching piece of information for Alex to digest, I think I was as devastated as she was!
As this story was equally driven by both plot and characters, reflecting the nature of modern multiple dating and friendships, the sprawling cast was drawn from a diverse range of classes and walks of life. Many were very emotionally complex, some devious, others downright vindictive and jealous. All were well drawn and defined, so that I knew exactly where I stood with them, even if most were not particularly authentic, likeable or relatable. The only one of this mash up of human wiles and artifices, who still had a rather touching naivety, was young Ned and being under 8 this is probably only to be expected. Even he however, as devoted as he obviously is to Alex, is not above turning a situation to his advantage, to the point that other mothers are stopping their own children from getting involved with him, because of his sometimes feral and selfish ways, which rather obviously stem from his lack of parental supervision during Alex’s binge dating sessions. Despite Alex’s bravado and ‘devil may care’ cavalier attitude, I got the impression that with her multi-faceted personality, perhaps she was the most vulnerable of all the characters. Her volatile emotions and ‘off the wall’ actions are all over the place. She is desperately searching for a sense of belonging and inclusion, and she is clearly yearning for a stable relationship and a traditional family life. I just hope that her complex life can be straightened out and that she can learn to love and hold onto all the good things she has in her possession, rather than letting them slip through her fingers again!
“Revenge is a dish best served cold”
A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the author and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!
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