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Good idea, disappointing execution

This bestselling thriller sucks you in from the first moment with an original, exciting premise and a clever build up. Paradoxically, when the crime is revealed the story becomes strangely anti-climactic and fizzles out. Good idea, disappointing execution.

Catherine Ravenscroft is a successful documentary maker happily married to Robert, a charity lawyer, and with a 25-year old son, Nicholas. One day a book appears on her bedside table, a thriller which seems to expose a dark secret that happened to her 20 years ago. Mortified, Catherine hides it from her husband and son, but someone out there is determined that they find out.

This someone is Stephen Brigstocke, an elderly ex-teacher, mourning the death of his wife Nancy, a writer. Stephen and Nancy lost their son in a drowning accident 20 years ago, a loss they never recovered from. So far, so good.

The build up is excellent and as Stephen starts stalking Catherine we get into gripping thriller territory. Slowly, what happened – or a version of what happened – that day 20 years ago is revealed. Perhaps I’ve become too blood thirsty, but the supposed crime just seemed a bit tame to me and Catherine’s reasons for not telling her husband incomprehensible. When the real crime is revealed towards the end, it became even more mystifying why this secret had been hidden for 20 years.

Like the author of Gone Girl before her, Knight tries to create perception shifts around the central characters. Is Catherine a brave, selfless documentary filmmaker or a selfish bitch? Is Stephen a crazy maniac or a mourning widower? But somehow it doesn’t really work, perhaps they are just not convincing enough.

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Renée Knight’s writing is not bad and she’s clearly capable of creating real suspense so I have hopes for her next book, which I’m sure is right around the corner. Having said that, I don’t think this book is worth your time and I’m, to be honest, a bit puzzled why it is selling so well, but then again, I often am with bestselling books, so perhaps is just me…

Disclaimer by Renée Knight is published by Black Swan, 362 pages