Title: Monstrous Souls
Author: Rebecca Kelly
Publisher: Agora Books
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published: 25th June 2020 (ebook and paperback)
Monstrous Souls is a dark and harrowing thriller, examining what it means to be a victim, and how the past can catch up with you when you least expect it.
SPOILER LEVEL: MEDIUM | This review contains some details about the plot and characters that could be considered spoilers.
#gifted | I was very kindly sent a copy of this book by Peyton Stableford (@TheyCallMePeyto) from @agorabooksldn in exchange for a review
This is a cold case thriller in which a young woman starts to regain her memories after an attack that left her with no memory of her childhood, a dead best friend, and a missing sister. As her memory surfaces, new evidence arises and the detective that first worked the case realises that the attack was a lot more sinister, and a lot more targeted, than it first appeared. Through multiple narratives, Rebecca Kelly explores a difficult and dark case that highlights how the past is never truly behind you, and what happens when it’s a whole lot closer than you’d expect. I think this was a great debut novel, but I was not awe-struck by it. Unfortunately, I failed to connect to any of the characters, and the plot didn’t quite grip me as I had hoped it would.
My main issue with the novel was the lack of character depth or growth. Every detail about every character is directly related to the plot, and next to nothing is given about the other aspects of their lives, making them feel flat and two-dimensional. I find it incredibly difficult to root for characters when I know nothing about them beyond their fondness for donuts and the fact they have a cat. Vague references are made to the main character’s job, but I don’t know what it was, and she appears to have nameless friends/colleagues that are barely mentioned. Similarly, one of the other perspectives, Denise, lives and breathes her work and aside from enjoying biscuits I couldn’t say anything else about her. This really limited their personality and ‘feel’ as characters, and made it difficult to care about their wellbeing.
Similarly, the third perspective is written entirely using epithets, which was also quite confusing and disjointed. I understand the heightened mystery that comes with leaving a character nameless, but in his chapters everyone else was also described in the same way, and I just struggled with it.
The plot was complex, with many different intertwining elements, and I think it must have taken a while to devise. It was just a little slow-moving, and I wasn’t really gripped until the tension ramped up in the last 20%-25% of the book. I did like the finale/conclusion to the novel; I just wish it had been more gripping throughout. I also guessed the plot twist quite early on, so wasn’t particularly shocked by the revelation towards the end.
Unfortunately, the writing style just wasn’t for me, and that didn’t really help with my enjoyment of this book. It wasn’t lyrical or atmospheric, but it was very descriptive, with long paragraphs on seemingly insignificant details. It felt as though the book needed bulking out and so odd sentences about biscuits and scenery were just scattered here and there. Contrasting to these huge descriptions was the lack of detail and description when it came to the harrowing subject matter of the case. Admittedly, details of sexual abuse allegations and potential child abductions are not pleasant to read about, but are necessary in a dark thriller. When these are discussed, vague references are made to photographs and implications of assault, but the majority has to be inferred by the reader, which lessens the sinister and disturbing feel of a really gripping thriller for me.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, especially the concept of cold case thrillers, which I haven’t read a lot of. It was an interesting read with a complex plot, moments of tension, and disturbing elements. Due to the lack of character development and the writing style not really being my thing, I stuck with a 3 star rating.