BOOK REVIEW: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.
Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.
Things don’t go wrong in an instant. There isn’t one single moment when the world suddenly splits in two. Rather, it begins with a minute crack, and then another and another, until they join together, getting bigger and wider and all the time you keep fooling yourself that this can still be fixed. That you can fill them in and everything will return to normal.
The Academic Night was the beginning. A hairline fracture, a fissure too small for Frank to notice. But I can hardly blame him; at the time I didn’t see it either.
College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love.
Looking up into his eyes, I wanted to shrink the world so it was only as large as the two of us, ask him if this could be love, but he was already moving his head, turning his eyes south to calculate the bare minimum of clothes that needed to be shed. We ended up having sex on that roof, minimal moving, fumbling, functional, rubber-infused sex.
Full of perfect strangers, it felt like the ideal place for Pen to shed the confines of her small home town and reinvent herself. But the darkness of her past clings tight, and when the killings begin and friendships are betrayed, Pen’s secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.
‘Sometimes, other people pay the price for you trying to do the right thing.’
This book was fine.
The writing was perfectly acceptable, with occasional moments of beauty and at times hints towards the creepy, but for the most part it was simply there; a method for conveying a story that was interesting, but also mostly just “fine”.
This book managed to keep me reading and dissuade me from putting it down in favour of others, but it wasn’t the sort of book to demand the sacrifice of sleep. It was a page turner, but with a slow build and without any huge twists, at least as far as this reader was concerned.
As a reader who has the potential to be surprised by mystery and crime novels as I don’t read them so very often, I shouldn’t be as hard to impress when it comes to this genre as I am with some others. And yet I manage to see similar stories repeated over and over with only minor twists to differentiate them, and find myself able to predict what will happen for the most part. This story was no different.
There was no real feeling for the characters in this story and, with the exception of something that happened in the last ten pages, no surprises in the plot or the guilt of certain characters. Quite a lot of this read, in fact, was spent trying to convince myself that those I suspected were actually red herrings, because it couldn’t be that obvious, surely?
All in all, this was a mostly pleasant read, though it did not provide the tension or twists that the blurb suggested, nor those that one would expect from a psychological thriller, and it felt more like a coming of age story with some psychological elements thrown in to make it a little more interesting. It was highly predictable, which is what a psychological thriller should not be, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I will be keeping an eye out for the author’s future works, as there is definite potential here, but this one didn’t deliver anything surprising or earth-shattering.
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