Friday, 23 December 2016

Review: Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen

I bought this a couple of years ago but didn't get around to reading it because some of the reviews I read at the time made the story sound as though it might be too gruesome for me - I'm a bit of a wimp! But it was coming up to Christmas, I was going to be on holiday, and I wanted to read some 'festive' crime fiction. There's not a lot of it about, strangely enough!

Jessica Gold is the oddball of her family - loved, but definitely eccentric - her brothers even call her 'weird' to her face. It is the day before Christmas and she's headed into town to do some last minute shopping. She takes a break in a busy cafe, and is surprised when the handsome and charismatic Dominic Lacey takes the seat opposite her and begins to chat her up, mentioning how much she reminds him of his ex-wife. A man like this is usually completely out of her league, so when he invites her back to his apartment she goes quite willingly, even though the voices in her head are telling her she's an idiot.

She should have listened to those voices! Dominic Lacey is planning on having Jessica for Christmas, and not quite in the way she'd hoped. He's even got her some very special presents, one for each of the twelve days of Christmas - but will she even get to live that long? And what, exactly, did happen to that mysterious ex-wife?

Dying for Christmas is brilliantly written in a very modern style. I found Jessica entertaining and engaging, although not very likeable - but that was kind of the point. In fact none of the characters are likeable, but this is a very clever psychological suspense, and no one is quite who they seem. Dominic in particular is a deliciously manipulative villain; his desire to swap life stories reminded me a bit of Hannibal Lecter (don't worry, no one gets eaten!). The best way of describing the story is as the publishers have done: 'Misery meets Gone Girl'.

The story is funny in places, a kind of dark humour, and most of the nasty violent stuff happens off the page. There are a couple of massive twists about halfway through, one of which I guessed, the other I didn't. 

If you enjoy traditional, cleverly-plotted psychological suspense, and don't mind a few brief descriptions of off-the-page gruesome stuff, then this is the book for you.

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