Author: Sophie McKenzie
Another thriller that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for quite some time is Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie, another book that I really wanted to read but never quite around to. My current break from romance made it the perfect time to pick it up… or so I thought. By the time I got to halfway I was questioning the intelligence of picking up a book centred on a woman losing her baby whilst I am heavily pregnant, definitely not my smartest choice.
Close My Eyes is a thriller that certainly kept me engrossed, and well and truly guessing until the big reveal. This was not one that you could pick from early on and were just waiting for the truth to be revealed.
Geniver Loxley is a childless mother battered by life and still struggling to come back from the brink after losing her daughter Beth. We meet her on the way to an IVF appointment she has allowed her husband to make for them. Gen isn’t sure she wants to go through the turmoil that is IVF again but Art can be quite persuasive. Gen wishes she could put into words how she feels about the whole IVF process so that maybe Art could understand her hesitation but the words won’t come. Gen is still reeling 8 years later from the loss of her baby and the emotional upheaval involved in IVF is more than Gen thinks she can bear, especially in the wake of six failed attempts already. They have had a break but Art thinks it’s time to start trying again.
Art has managed to move on from the loss of Beth to build a successful business reputation and a fortune. He doesn’t seem to still be affected by the loss of Beth and is ready to move on to the next stage, hopefully with a new baby on the horizon. Art is driven and focused, personality traits that have served him well in business and have helped him to achieve the things he has in business, they have also seen him get what he wants in his personal life.
Days before Art’s 40th Birthday party there is a knock on Gen’s door and a stranger tells her that her baby is alive. It’s crazy, it can’t possibly be true… but what if it can? Gen calls Art and her best friend Hen, both of whom tell her that it can possibly be true and she needs to put the visit behind her and move on. Why would someone make up a story like that? Makes for a compelling argument I think but Art has recently been involved in a reality TV show. It hasn’t brought huge amounts of fame and fortune but is has made him more well known and the internet would have enough details of his life to be able to put together a story like this and target his good fortune for nefarious purposes.
Gen tries to put it out of her head, seeing how crazy it looks but feeling that she lost everything when she lost Beth makes it very difficult not to foster a spark of hope. Gen’s lack of an even keel since her loss makes it extremely easy for those closest to her to make her second guess everything which just has her looking more unstable, more paranoid. She is a woman struggling, and has been struggling since that day almost 8 years ago when they told her that her baby had died in utero. She’s a writer who hasn’t been able to write anything since losing Beth, she’s teaching an adult writing course and trying to dodge questions about her next release.
It isn’t long before she simply can’t help herself, that spark of hope has been ignited and she has to try and find out what was behind the strangers claims. The more amateur detective work Gen undertakes the more unstable she is painted.
I felt for Gen, I couldn’t for a second understand what she was going through but being heavily pregnant myself it certainly unsettled me. Gen’s pregnancy is traveling along fine until 37 weeks. She becomes concerned at the lack of movement, which is something I COMPLETELY understand having such worries myself at times, and so goes in for an ultrasound only to be told that her baby has died. Art decides that an emergency C-section as soon as possible would be best, even though the doctor says perhaps some time to get used to the idea would be better and even a natural labour. That thought brought tears to my eyes, just the thought of someone suggesting that I labour to birth a baby that I know hasn’t survived broke my heart. The whole situation broke my heart to tell the truth but at least a C-section I could be completely knocked out, though for my C-section I was awake. Gen never got to see her baby, she had a rare disfiguring chromosomal abnormality and Art decided it would be too distressing. At her insistence she was shown photos but never actually saw Beth. He took care of all the funeral arrangements and Beth was cremated, her ashes scattered. The chromosomal abnormality was confirmed as Full Trisomy 18 with DNA testing from samples taken after Beth’s delivery. Part of me is a little caught up on why this was not discovered throughout her pregnancy, I can’t see them not having had all the pre-natal testing available. This is a condition that wouldn’t be picked up on a normal ultrasound but would have with other testing – having said that I didn’t have all of the available tests so it is feasible.
At a time when Gen is finding herself completely vulnerable and unsure of anyone around her, not being able to decide who she can trust, there comes a new face on the scene. Lorcan Byrne is a figure from Art’s past with a colourful reputation. He hasn’t been seen or heard of in over a decade and now, right at this time of upheaval, he happens to pop back onto the scene at Art’s birthday party. He once worked for Benson Loxley so he is known to most of the staff of the company, all who are gathered at Art and Gen’s for the birthday party. The story of his leaving is shared with Gen and much more about his colourful past, painting him as a player who is always out for a new conquest.
Lorcan and Gen get talking and over the following days Gen ends up pouring her heart out to him, as an objective observer I think it begins. He listens to her and doesn’t dismiss her as unstable. It is Lorcan that encourages her to investigate because in the end what has she got to lose and he helps her every step of the way with her detective work. This too is conveyed in a few lights so you’re never quite sure what’s in it for him, why he’s doing this and what sort of ulterior motives he might be hiding and why he appeared back on the scene when he did.
There are a few different theories that popped into my mind throughout the book but I was totally unprepared for the big reveal. I was totally engrossed, though a little freaked out by the whole situation in my current condition. Gen’s constant second-guessing herself grated a little but it was understandable, ever since the day she lost Beth she has basically let Art drive her life and now she’s not sure she can trust him so she’s not quite sure how to control her own life anymore. Watching her confidence grow throughout the book and realise her strength was heartening.
Sophie McKenzie has written a range of young adult thrillers which I may need to keep an eye out for if this adult debut is anything to go by. Certainly an author I would read again.