Rowan Winter is the first person we meet in Keep You Close, and thus she is established as the main character in this psychological thriller. Her mother died when she was a toddler, and her globe-trotting father was seldom available until after he’d married again. But she did have one very close best friend, from their elementary school years, Marianne Glass. Marianne was part of a welcoming family, which brought Rowan into their home and treated her as one of their own. The sprawling, boisterous artistic Glass family was a world unknown to the solitary Rowan. She was thus totally lost when as young adults, she and Marianne have a major falling out.
Although there has since then been no communication between them, Rowan has never given up hope of a reconciliation. Not to be, however, as ten years later, Marianne, now a renowned artist, dies from a strange fall. Rowan questions the facts she unearths about her friend’s death and is determined to find the truth.
The first three-quarters or so I quite liked this book, then it seemed to run off the rails, jumping from here to there, looking for something to grab hold of. But still, that first part wasn’t all smooth going, either. For the most part, the writing is smooth, other than the occasional ambiguous pronouns. These are very confusing, and should never have made it to the print version. It’s really hard enough to keep track of so many characters and settings, without having to re-read to be sure of which character is now onstage, and in which era.
The story jumps back and forth from ten years ago to now, and this isn’t always clearly delineated. It’s easy to be confused and have to thumb back to figure out, not only which era you’re in, but also where you are! One could almost believe that it was envisaged as a film/TV drama, in that the visual differences between the time periods are immediately obvious to the viewer. This doesn’t work very well for the reader.
The setting is mostly Oxford, England, with occasional short jaunts to London. The two worlds inhabited by the people within are wonderfully displayed, with real depth, not just all incidental on the surface. The numerous characters are very well drawn, and change positions constantly, as if unsure of their footing on a narrow bridge.
I found it quite difficult to like Rowan, who is really not a very sympathetic character. However, she is the major character here, no question about that. When her straw house begins to collapse around her, she becomes even more unlikable.
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bloomsbury USA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.