Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Something tells her that this is far from over. That the cracks are going to get deeper, form chasms, enough to move continents.”
I’m embarrassed to say that this book is my first read by Gillian McAllister. (I know, I know. Even though all her books have been sitting on my bookshelf for some time now!) I’m already a big fan of her dog, Wendy, (Penny says hi) so now it’s my time to become a huge fan of her writing too! I’d heard such amazing things about Gillian’s latest, and my god, I haven’t read something quite this good in…well, forever! If you like the sound of this incredible book, do support by buying a copy or by sharing this review 😊
About the book
What would you do to protect your family?
During a family holiday in Italy, you get an urgent call from your sister.
There’s been an accident: she hit a man with her car and he’s dead.
She’s overcome with terror – fearing years in a foreign jail away from her child.
She asks for your help. It wasn’t her fault, not really. She’d cover for you, so will you do the same for her?
But when the police come calling, the lies start. And you each begin to doubt your trust in one another.
What really happened that night?
Who is lying to who?
Who will be the first to crack?
McAllister wastes no time in plunging her characters into a very sticky situation. Frannie is traumatised after she knocks down a man in her car. Blood everywhere. Panic escalates as her siblings arrive at the scene and we’re already left wondering how the hell they’d get out of this! I felt such a huge attachment to cool-headed Cathy; surely she’d know what to do? From the first page of the stunningly written prologue and beyond, there’s a deep sense of urgency, not only for the characters we meet, but for the reader too! I’ve heard so much about the way this author writes, and I could instantly see the appeal. The bond between Cathy, Frannie and Joe is so clear and so strong, and this is strengthened further by the odd anecdote about their childhoods. The feelings, the smells and the visuals instantly popped into my mind, as if I was watching everything play out before my very eyes. Now that is a skill in itself, and I was so completely absorbed in everything I read in that opening scene. If this was a taste of what was to come, I knew it was going to be one hell of a journey! The opening was absolutely breathtaking, an experience like no other.
I really enjoyed the way the author used two different time frames – ‘then’ and ‘now’ – in the book, giving us an insight to what life was like for the characters on that dreaded night, as well as long after the incident had passed. McAllister effortlessly makes readers feel the despair in one chapter and the intense intrigue of the next. The pacing of the story early on has been so well crafted, and I regularly felt a twinge of anxiety for these characters I already felt so close to! They have such in-depth conversations and make life-changing decisions in such short time. This family see plenty of blood and gore in running their veterinary practice, but human injuries and lifeless bodies are far from what they’re used to… Meeting Lydia, Joe’s wife, was an absolute breath of fresh air – I loved this character and her story is such a great one. However, she’s very out of the loop with what the Plant family are going through. Would she ever know? The latest plan of staging the whole thing to look like the dead man was, in fact, missing, could go one of two ways. Could all three siblings stick to a plan and their word?
“She turns her mind to the first thing. Because this isn’t over. It’s actually just the beginning. This is the first day, in a whole lifetime of lies.”
The mystery continues to build in such a brilliantly tense way and I was becoming more and more curious about the Now. Gillian is quite clearly the ultimate queen of tension building and it seemed to get better and better with each chapter I read. Just when you think it can’t get better, the author tops it yet again which just blew my head off, quite frankly. I loved how in between Cathy, Frannie and Joe’s impulse decisions and plans, we hear so much about their parents and share inside jokes which felt weirdly heartwarming in such grim circumstances. The character development is already better than many other books I’ve read, and all three main characters were easily and quickly fully formed in my mind by this point. I loved how the author revisited that significant moment at the market earlier in the day for the sake of the reader, the place where we see the victim in his first encounter with Frannie. I still had the feeling there was more to learn about the whole situation, and there was no doubt in my mind that this would be delivered to the reader with clarity and style.
It was a weird feeling, but the more I sunk myself into the siblings’ mess, the more I began to really feel like I was a piece of each one of them. Their problems very quickly became my problems, and the more involved I felt, the quicker I read! That intense feeling of being on edge constantly was pretty addictive, with each chapter just slowly building on that feeling. As things progressed and decisions were made, I even began talking to myself a bit. “Man, that is risky” and “Could they really get away with that?!” were just a few of the words that escaped my mouth, and I honestly couldn’t believe how much I’d been sucked in. The opening to this book is genuinely one of the best, if not the best. Mountains of questions started stacking up, not just about the scenario the siblings had found themselves in, but also about each of the characters we’d met so far. Could they trust one another? Would all three of them be able to keep such a huge secret, something that is such a huge burden? For a lifetime? I wasn’t so sure… A flawless start and I was so so excited to see how things developed!
More information about the dead man comes to light, and it’s not the news they want to hear; he was a police officer, and it isn’t long before a missing person investigation is underway. The fear and anxiety I felt was completely off the scale! I loved reading the siblings’ interviews with the police; I even started feeling like I’d done something wrong. You really do feel the pressure these characters are feeling, and the words used by the author make you experience every scene as if you’re right there with the characters. Hearing more about the present day had me as curious as ever about what happened to the three siblings long after the accident and if any of them were in trouble. It was so hard to resist the temptation to skip to the end of the book, and it’s been so long since I’ve been so desperate for answers! The book was already hinting at some brilliant twists (even though I couldn’t predict anything at this point in the story) and the excitement of what was to come was overwhelming at times. The author’s talent radiates from each page and I was actually getting a little bit jealous!
Lydia, Joe’s wife, becomes very suspicious of the siblings’ secret. Joe assures her she doesn’t need to know, but I know for a fact that if I was in Lydia’s position, I’d be worried too! I held my breath as Lydia began to get closer and closer to the truth; carrying out her own mini ‘investigations’, looking through his iPad and trying to add things up in her mind. As much as I loved Lydia, I enjoyed knowing more than she did here, and I was torn between wanting her to find out something and be let into their little circle, and wanting her to leave things alone. If she did, however, would she and Joe still have a marriage? Cracks begin to show in the siblings’ trust – their promises to one another and keeping that shared secret. With both Joe and Frannie acting without without consulting the others, I became worried for what the outcome of the whole situation would be. The short sharp chapters here made it impossible to stop reading, the pace making me sweat with anticipation! I’d already had quite a few late nights with this book as I just could not take a break, and I knew this would continue until I’d finished.
“Frannie seems absolutely fine, having killed somebody last week. There is something uneasy about it that she can’t untangle.”
The worry and slight panic inside me grew a little as we learn Frannie and Joe are making decisions without consulting Cathy. With her being the voice of reason, it felt strange to know they didn’t seem to want her advice. Whenever we focus on any particular character, I noticed their many similarities and differences in not only how they felt at each stage of this horrendous ordeal, but also how they deal with their feelings and process their thoughts. The description of thoughts and feelings are clearly one of the author’s passions in her writing, and each of these have been written with such attention to detail. Back in Italy, the siblings hear of a development, something which sparks panic once again. They’re surely going to be caught. Did they leave any clues behind? All of their DNA was scattered around and if things continued as they were, they’d surely go to prison. How would life be then? What would their parents think of them? Their children, murderers. So much to think about and stress over, and I’m talking about myself, not the characters!
There was one particular chapter that made a few things clearer, a satisfying twist that I was not expecting involving a courtroom and a confession. Those unanswered questions felt like they’d be answered imminently, and I was hanging onto the author’s every word for some subtle hint, some tiny detail or explanation. News alert after news alert made it clear that the truth was so close to being discovered, the panic between Cathy, Frannie and Joe somehow transferred to myself, causing my stomach to do flips and my eyes to widen in horror at times. The whole experience so far felt like reading in HD, everything was so crystal clear, so gripping and captivating that I could not stop reading, not even for sleep sometimes! We reach a part of the book which really stuck with me, where Cathy seems to have reached a point of no return. She thinks about what would happen if she turned herself in, took the blame for her sister, something, anything to make all this go away. To make it stop. After all this, I was not prepared for what the ending had in store!
I had a weird feeling about Evan, a colleague, since the first time we meet him in this book, and it seemed my predications for him were sort of correct. He’s clever, tactical, and he goes about his days with this smug aura around him which I really didn’t like. Don’t get me wrong, I thought his character was brilliant and had been developed so so well! After finding out some secret information, he tries to blackmail the Plants which was very stressful indeed to read. So much was going wrong for them, and the feeling of thinking that nothing will ever go right again was put across so well for the reader. From bribes, to escalated anger to an increased number of tiffs between the three siblings, cracks were certainly getting deeper, all trust they had for each other slowly wavering. Again, we revisit the pain and frustration Lydia is feeling and experience just how much Joe’s secrets and burdens are affecting their lives and their relationship. New information about that night from Frannie really changes things and the book was getting SO juicy!
Part six onwards of the book had to be my absolute favourites, the parts where everything comes together, the parts where I was gripping the book tightly the most! The twists are revealed thick and fast as we approach the ending of the book, and each one had me completely gobsmacked. The way the author pieces together these twists continued to blow my mind, the surprise making me want to shout about them from the rooftops! Characters I loved from the start were making me feel cautious, like they couldn’t be trusted, and there was one particular character who I was growing an unexpected kind of fear of – was Cathy feeling the same way? The continuous back and forth from past to present was flawless; it built suspense and intrigue in a way that I’ve never seen done before and I could tell we were in for a killer finale. Pun not intended, but fitting. These two points in time were lining up with each other in such a satisfying way.
“Don’t they know that it wasn’t the police who got us, in the end? It was ourselves.”
I have such a huge desire to blurt out everything that happens here because it was just SO good and there was SO much going on which forced all my predictions to fly out the window. (But I won’t do it!) There was one twist in the midst of all the others that really impressed me about who the victim was, something which triggered anger in Cathy, something which shocked me to the core and something her siblings had never experienced. Cathy just didn’t get angry. Ever. The events leading up to the ending of the book were insanely powerful to read. They showed the lengths people will go to in order to protect the ones they love. Their children. Their siblings. But saying all this, the power portrayed so close to the ending of this book felt a little terrifying. Humans are capable of some complex and downright terrifying things! The author’s words were enthralling as everything came together, and the ending was even better than I could have ever imagined. Even though my eyes were tearing up!
As well as the intense thrill and excitement I felt at the end of the book, it was also surprisingly emotional too. As one of the most shocking scenes in the whole book plays out, I couldn’t help but place myself in the shoes of one character, mulling over the reasons they did what they did and the implications of it all. The tension in the run up to the ending is unbearable at times, but written incredibly well – this is how I want a book to make me feel in that final stretch, and I wasn’t left disappointed in the slightest. Again, it was so emotional as we learn the truth and how things will be in the future, but my god it was the best ending in my eyes. I feel I’ll never get over this experience, and ever since I finished that last page, it’s been all I can think of! I’ve said it already but it’s something I’ll continue to say for a while – this is definitely the best book I’ve read to date and I cannot wait to read the rest of Gillian’s books!
I’ve already declared my love for this book on my Instagram stories, but I absolutely need to do it here, too. I feel like I’m just about the repeat what so many others have said before me, but this book is genuinely flawless, and I mean that with every fibre of my being. Incredible character creation and development, a plot that made me sweat and panic just as much as the characters, a brilliantly unique writing style that I don’t think can ever be topped in my eyes and an overall gripping and captivating feel from start to finish. If you love thrillers, this is a must read!! 435 pages of pure perfection. Why isn’t there a 435 star rating? This book is more than worthy of that.
That Night by Gillian McAllister is available RIGHT NOW wherever you get your books, but here’s the Amazon link. Make sure you’re following the author over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, because she’s absolutely hilarious as is cute lil Wendy. Plus there’s plenty of updates about new books!
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