Originally published: 6 February 2020
Author: C J Skuse
Published by: HQ Stories
Length: 324 pages
Reading dates: 6-9 February 2020
Joanne Haynes has a secret: Joanne is not her real name, the flat she lives in isn’t hers, the cats that live with her aren’t hers and even her hair colour isn’t hers.
She has a whole selection of alibis depending on who she is talking to: she is a doctor with 5 children, she is a successful international novelist, a cleaner at a hotel with a young baby or a young cancer patient. We find out very early in the story that she is terrified of being found and we find out that she has been in some sort of protection scheme since she was 18 and has to move several times since then to protect her identity. It’s not immediately clear though why she has so many identities…
We have flashbacks to when she was a child and she went to stay with her beloved cousins and Aunt Chelle in the pub they own. Her dad has a gambling problem (and isn’t the most stable influence) and her mum died in childbirth. Her Aunt and cousin Foy especially, treat her as if she is one of them – she and Foy are the same age and are like sisters. You get a real sense of what a wonderful time she had there.
I read Sweetpea near the beginning of my blogging career and loved psychopathic Rhiannon. While I would say that Sweetpea is very more a black comedy, The Alibi Girl is much more of a thriller and Skuse creates real sympathy for the character of Joanne.
Joanne is a lonely young woman and lives a very complicated life. People aren’t kind to her – the man who looks after her identities is impatient and fed up her what he sees as her paranoia and the people she works with are downright cruel. I felt completely invested in her as a character, feeling very sad for her, despite the fact she appears to be a compulsive liar.
This was a real page turner – I love the way Skuse writes with the ability to draw you completely into someone’s life. I can’t say too much more without giving more of the plot away (which I wouldn’t want to do) but if you love thrillers, with great characters then this is the book for you!
Many thanks HQ Stories for sending me an advance copy!
About the author:
C J Skuse is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House) and MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She has recently written the adult crime novels SWEETPEA and its sequel for HQ/HarperCollins. C J was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England and has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University.
C J loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and graveyards. She hates hard-boiled eggs, going to the dentist and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas – she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Tom Hardy present her with the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.