4 stars out of 5
"One say or another I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha..."
--Blondie (written by Debbie Harry and Nigel Harrison)
The lyrics of that old song ran through my head almost all the way through this book, which, for the record, I enjoyed. Still, now that I've finished, I'm faced with this question: How do I review a book that's exceptionally well written with a plot that's clever, intriguing and compelling but with a lead character who frustrated the heck out of me?
Let me explain. This is a story about the Rebecca, a victim of domestic abuse, both physical and psychological. Really, I "get" the difficulties victims face in escaping from situations like this and their inability to take charge of their own lives for reasons real or imagined. Rebecca, though, took all that to a whole new level - and in the beginning, I sympathized. But once the story started to pick up steam and she rationalized passing up every opportunity to extricate herself, I just couldn't help but say to myself at almost every turn of events, "Woman, what were you thinking?"
For instance, after Rebecca has been pushed beyond the limit of most humans and at one point confronts Solomon, her abuser, she thinks to herself, "I wanted to slap him in the face, to demand he stop this."
Say what? He's committed atrocities against you and darned near everyone you love, and the punishment you think will bring him around is a slap? Gott im Himmel, lady! Nothing short of dismembering his nether-parts and feeding them to pigs would have worked for me - and I don't dare put in print what I'd have done to the rest of him after that!
In the end, though, the review came easily, because I firmly believe reviews should be based on the quality of writing and the complexity, originality and flow of the story - not whether or not characters are "likable" or behave the way I want them to. And on those criteria, the author did a super job. Even when I wanted to shake the stuffing out of Rebecca, I shook my head and kept going - simply because I was totally engrossed and couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. And that, my friends, is the essence of any really good book.
As for the plot (a very clever one, I hasten to add), Rebecca has found a new life in Wales with her veterinarian husband and young daughter about 10 years after that uber-controlling fiance, Solomon, was found guilty - based on her testimony - of murdering one of her male co-workers. Solomon went to jail, but now he's out - and suddenly, Rebecca's life is turned upside down. When she's in her bedroom, she hears a phone ringing and follows the sound to find a phone that she didn't put there. The message is frightening at best: Solomon says he will force her to witness 10 crimes - one for each year he spent in jail - and she must choose the victims. The message announcing the first ends (as do the others) with these words: "You are a Silent Witness. Talk to the police and you die."
Chapters switch from character perspective (Rebecca, Solomon, and entries in Rebecca's secret diary) and time period, building up background and leading to an unexpected, and for the most part, satisfying, ending. Well done, highly recommended, and I thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Witness by Caroline Mitchell (Thomas & Mercer, December 2016); 338 pp.