A Lifetime Ago – Book Review

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Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Small towns were held together by tales. Lies and gossip mostly, but also truths that would drop your jaw.”

This is my second read by Jim Ody this month and I’m absolutely loving his work! This story is filled with suspense, with a shocking ending that I just couldn’t have predicted. Just incredible! I’m so happy to be sharing my review on the book tour – make sure you check out the reviews from these other amazing book bloggers!

This is a tale about how the events of one day have such catastrophic consequences on the future.

Hudson Bell is a consultant for the police. A former DI, he spends his days helping to find missing children.

May and her son go on a road trip to celebrate his birthday; Robert and Nadia buy their dream house by the sea.

But as each look to enjoy a new life, none of them can shake off what happened on that fateful day. One of them blames the others and will stop at nothing to seek revenge.

One accident and five lives changed forever.

The beginning

There are so many crime/thriller books out there with a focus on a police detective or a similar character, but Hudson Bell really stood out for me as being such a likeable, memorable protagonist with bags of determination! He’s a consultant for the police force and a former DI, so you just know this guy has seen a lot in his time. I was desperate to read his story! Jim Ody is one of the first authors I think of when anyone asks for some solid crime/thriller author recommendations, and this book and its characters are an absolute credit to him. The start of the book introduces us to Hudson, tells us exactly the kind of person he is, as well as what his job entails. The first chapter was so enlightening and painted the perfect picture of what we could expect in this book, and after the first chapter had gone by, I was fully invested in its pages. There was even a brief shift in time frames which I loved, and learning about a specific case two months earlier made the foundations of the book even more solid. An amazing start!

Hudson is dedicated to helping find missing and vulnerable children; it’s his passion, and he’ll do anything he can to bring justice to the families affected by these unfortunate disappearances. The disappearance of young Darren Hughes continues to weigh on Hudson’s mind two months after it was reported, and even though we were only just getting into the details of his cases, I was completely hooked. The cases we hear about are just fascinating, but also pretty disturbing. I felt a ton of emotions for not only the families involved, but for those working a case with no leads to help them out, or those unfortunate people who find bodies of those reported missing. The book already gives readers so much to think about, and it’s just impossible not to become so invested in each and every scene! However, there was one particular incident I was so eager to learn more about – the case of Luke Southall, a boy Hudson had personally knocked down and killed. The build up of suspense was already exceptional!

“No sooner had the sun appeared in the sky than his mind kicked back into action. A flick of a switch bringing him to life like Frankenstein’s monster.”

The way the book switches perspective from one character to the next was brilliant, and each of the characters we meet are so important to the story. I loved getting into all the detail before and after the accident that Hudson was unfortunately involved in, and we see the impact all this has had on the lives of multiple characters. I also loved reading the early details of the Daniel Hughes case, and each little detail we learn was so satisfying and made me even more invested in everything that was going on. Ody has a really clever way of holding a reader’s attention and making us desperate to hear more and more. At least, that’s the impact his words always have on me! I really like how the author had created Jez’s character – such a funny guy! He had such a brilliant sense of humour and this had been portrayed flawlessly in the scenes he was in. I loved the balance of the seriousness of the cases with the uplifting humour from Jez. It worked so so well!

As much as I’d hoped we’d be getting deeper into the Darren Hughes case at this point, I did still enjoy learning about the past, the successes of some of the other cases and of Hudson’s regular therapy meetings, as well as how he got to know Laura, another character with her own troubles. It seemed the pair were well matched, but was it wise for him to get involved with someone as broken as he was after everything he’d been though in his life? As things weren’t developing at the pace I expected, I couldn’t help but think a little further into the book to try and predict the sorts of things we’d see. After reading some of the other reviews for this book, I did become excited for the curveballs and the twists and turns that had been discussed an awful lot… I think I was just being a bit impatient! I did really enjoy the opening to the book and was confident the author had more to give as the story developed.

The middle

Let’s talk about some other characters in the story, some who are very significant to one certain event from the past – May and her son who go on a road trip, and Robert and Nadia who move some distance away into their dream home to start afresh. All of these characters are trying to move on from the incident, desperate to get their lives back on track. But how easy would it be? I loved how these characters were all linked together, but I also felt for them that that fateful day continued to loom over them, whatever they did and wherever they went in life. Would it ever leave? We also learn about a different side to Laura that I didn’t expect and I could tell this new information about her would make the story even more interesting. I sensed things could potentially become a whole lot darker than we’d experienced so far, especially having read from the perspectives of May and Robert. The complexity of it all was just perfectly constructed and I was left wondering how on earth the author managed to pull it off!

Hudson’s meeting with Simon Hughes, Darren Hughes’ uncle, was exactly what I’d been waiting for. Any sort of interrogation scene goes down well with me in a book of this nature, and I was racing through the pages to get as much additional information as possible about the case. I also seemed to be eager to reach May’s chapters quite a lot, as her story seemed to be very captivating, creating such a memorable experience. I think I’d love another book based on her life and past entirely! Just a real interesting character that I always wanted to learn more about. I had some suspicions about Greg, the guy who ends up saving May from a known rapist and someone who May has been speaking with for a while, but I couldn’t work out whether I was just being overly cautious. He seemed the nicest guy on the surface, but maybe he was hiding something… or maybe I needed to stop overthinking! Either way, I was loving the direction of the story, and I couldn’t wait to see what the second half of the book had in store.

“This was how it went sometimes. Maybe one day he’d have a whole team working around the clock to find these children, but until that time, he’d do the best he could. And live with the consequences later.”

Hudson’s progress in the Darren Hughes case was slow, but the steps he took to try and get to the bottom of his disappearance were very well constructed, and there wasn’t a single moment where I felt bored or uninterested. He continues to interview various people about Darren’s disappearance with such attention to detail, and as these scenes played out, I completely lost track of time as I became more and more rooted into the case. Every new piece of information made it feel as though we were getting closer and closer to the truth, but there was definitely a long way to go before we got some real answers. The excitement and tension was also slowly building, something I loved from the last novel I read by this author. I was pleasantly surprised to read a chapter from Jez’ point of view, and thought this was a great way to break the story up after an interview with a potential witness. The humour in this chapter was top notch (as expected) but we also learn some new information that would be crucial to the investigation.

The introduction of Jade, a character known to both Robert and Nadia, really set those alarm bells ringing in my mind. Who was she, and what did she want with them both? I love it when a character is introduced in a book that you just can’t stop thinking about, and Jade was definitely one I felt I needed to watch. I also started feeling over protective of May as certain details come to light, and I found the nature of Greg’s phone calls to his ex-wife really strange. There was certainly something fishy going on, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at this point. The scenes that followed were absolutely fantastic and made me love May’s character even more. Her courage and bravery grows over time, and hearing from Greg’s ex-wife and daughter felt very chilling! I really don’t want to give things away, but I was desperate to read further – the pace was certainly picking up here and I could sense there were a few more links to be made between different characters. I had no idea where the story could go from here, but I wasn’t taking a break until that last page!

The end

After a promising lead comes in from Devon & Cornwall police and a possible sighting of Darren Hughes is revealed, Hudson and Jez take a trip and question a new witness. Surely they had to be close by now?! By this point, I had a theory about Darren’s disappearance, but I also had a feeling there could be a few red herrings thrown in there… the author certainly keeps you on your toes, even more so as the final few chapters go by! These chapters were full of suspense and there was never a dull moment. The more we learnt, the more I was desperate to revisit May’s chapters, but I was also incredibly curious to read more from Robert and Nadia’s point of view too. I loved how the author had a way of placing you right in the minds of all the significant characters in the book and to an extent, understand their motives. It was only a matter of time before everything was out in the open, and I was so ready for it!

I’d been waiting for that gripping scene of when things are revealed. I could tell it was imminent and when these pages arrived, I lost my mind! The delivery of these scenes was perfect and they were filled with danger and uncertainty. I loved how different characters we’d followed for so long are brought together, and with the way things were going, I wasn’t sure everyone would live to tell the tale. I loved May’s character for whole different reasons at this point, but I was also beginning to become more concerned for the safety of others. The author has written these scenes, the different events and the dialogue so perfectly and in a way that keeps your eyes completely glued to the words on the page. The author continues to revisit the past, including when May and Robert were together as well as Hudson and Nadia. I knew there would be more gripping information to learn before things ended and I was very aware of how little pages were left in the book.

“A miasma of sorrow engulfed the scene. One that would never be the same again. The five lives that day would be blown apart like a shotgun blast, sending them all off into separate directions.”

The more we read about the past and the more we learn, the more so many little details slotted into place, and we are able to fill in a few blanks in our minds. I appreciated how much backstory we get in this book, especially towards the end, and the way we’re given this information throughout the whole book has been written very well. There were a couple of questions in my mind that I still needed answers to, and it would be interesting which would be answered, and which would be left to the imagination. We finally get to hear exactly what happened on the day of the Luke Southall incident, which was saddening to read but also linked perfectly with everything else that was going on in the story at this point. As we returned to the present day, I looked at the story with fresh eyes having learnt more about the past, and was excited to jump into those tension-filled final chapters.

The ending of the book was explosive! Just when I thought I had everything worked out, (believe me, I genuinely thought I had and was very proud of myself) the author proved me wrong and I just couldn’t believe how clever it was! Believe me when I say you really need to keep an eye on everyone you meet in this book… The suspense is there throughout the entire ending, and even lingered afterwards as I just had to go through everything that had happened in my mind again. I couldn’t find any fault in that ending or the build up to it! The book ends on such a great note and gives us plenty to think about for book two of the series. Would there be even more disappearances? Or would Hudson have bigger fish to fry? I’m so so excited to continue Hudson’s journey, and I’m once again delighted and amazed by this author’s work. Phenomenal!

Overall thoughts

Another completely gripping book by this author, and it’s certainly another of the best crime/thrillers I’ve read this year! Jim Ody always knows his readers and how to keep them on their toes, and this book is the perfect example of what he’s capable of. The characters and their lives are so deep and complex, the storyline is so addictive and so unexpected, and the ending just blew me away completely. I’m still not over it! The perfect start to the Hudson Bell series, and yet another five star read for me. Will I ever NOT give a Jim Ody book five stars?! Would definitely recommend this book and this author to all crime/thriller lovers!

A huge thanks to the author, Jim Ody, and Zoe at Zooloo’s Book Tours for my copy of this book and my place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of A Lifetime Ago on Amazon, available on Kindle or in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates.

Looking for book reviews?

If you’re in need of reviews for your own book, do get in touch to get on my submissions list! All the information you need is on my book reviews page.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you so much for taking part in the tour and for this amazing review x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Em says:

      You’re so welcome Zoe! 😊❤️

      Like

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