Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.
But lately, it’s all starting to come back.
As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.
When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?
Title: Monstrous Souls | Author: Rebecca Kelly | Publisher: Agora Books | Pages: 320 | ISBN: 9781913099558 | Publication date: 25th June 2020 | Source: NetGalley
‘Monstrous Souls’ has some real strengths – it’s generally gripping, often moving and tackles a very challenging topic sensitively. Unfortunately it also has a fair number of weaknesses. At times it feels like there are gaps in the narrative and one of the central characters is plain dull. As a result I came away from it feeling somewhat dissatisfied. This is one of those books that probably could have been really good, but which falls just short.
The story is immediately attention grabbing and the first few chapters are really strong. The setup is that in 2001 three young girls are attacked. One dies, one survives and one goes missing. Heidi, the survivor loses her memory, but years later in 2016 she starts to regain it. Teaming up with Denise, a policewoman who investigated the case originally, she starts to unravel the mystery.
The book switches back and forth between 2001 and 2016, with the older parts all told in first person by Heidi. For the 2016 chapters author Rebecca Kelly takes a different approach, some are Heidi, some are about Denise and some a mysterious male character who goes unnamed until the end. The format works well and Heidi’s sections are really good as she slowly recalls the events of the past and pieces things together. I found Denise a much less interesting character, and that comes from someone who normally loves reading about cops. She lacks a distinct character or drivers and as a result is fairly dull to read. The mystery male is more interesting, with a story arc that’s one of the best things about the book. The gimmick of not releasing his name and deliberately leaving out details that would allow the reader to identify him does wear a bit thin after a while though.
The fact that the book is about child sexual abuse is fairly obvious early on, but fortunately the handling of the subject matter is sensitive and gives the book a real emotional impact at times. Unfortunately the mystery itself is less skilfully handled. Whilst I didn’t guess every detail the ending didn’t come as a big shock to me. In fact a lot of the tension comes from the overwhelming desire to see justice done rather than a need to solve the mystery. In a way that’s not a bad thing, there’s a horrible inevitability to events which suits the topic, but a few more surprises would have strengthened the book.