"Try Not to Breathe" (Ballantine Books), by Holly Seddon
Holly Seddon's first novel, "Try Not to Breathe," delivers the high-quality thrills and intriguing characters that readers demand in the best of psychological thrillers.
Amy Stevenson was a young woman with a boyfriend. One day she made a horrible decision and ended up in a coma. The culprit was never caught, but her family and friends were scarred and damaged due to the lack of answers.
Fifteen years go by. Alex Dale, a disgraced reporter, is researching patients in vegetative states when she discovers Amy lying in a hospital bed. Alex has lost everything she holds dear, including her marriage and a prestigious job, due to alcohol, and she sees Amy as a path to redemption and an opportunity to make news by tracking down the truth behind what happened to Amy all those years ago.
As Alex continues to visit Amy in the hospital, she begins to think of her as a friend. She starts to ask questions, and while some are forthcoming with what they know, others refuse to talk to Alex about the past.
And who is Amy's frequent visitor? And what secret is he hiding?
The story jumps back and forth between 1995 with Amy and 2010 with Alex and her investigation. Some authors have difficulty making it easy to follow a back-and-forth flow, but Seddon handles the narrative like a pro, making it compelling instead of complicated.
Secrets and confronting past mistakes are the building blocks that Seddon uses to great effect from the first page. While the trend in publishing these days tends to be the unreliable narrator, "Try Not to Breathe" is a breath of fresh air. It's rare that the reason the story works so well is the characters and the compelling mystery rather than some gruesome crime or shocking incident that is unbelievable. Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, the emotional ride Seddon delivers is worth the time and investment.