What You Did by Claire McGowan – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

A vicious assault. A devastating accusation. Who should she trust, her husband or her best friend?

It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.

When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted—by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying—but which? And why?

When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I am familiar with Claire McGowan’s books having read a few from her Paula Maguire series. This is a stand-alone novel and she has proved that she can do both perfectly well.

When the six ex Oxford University friends had a reunion years after their graduation none of them had any idea that things would go so tragically wrong. The way each of them handled it revealed how their friendship wasn’t as strong or genuine as they thought.

Most of it is modern day and concerns Ali, wife of the charged man and ‘best friend’ of the victim. She was a character who baffled and annoyed me the more I read. Her obsession with image, her snobbery and especially her noticing that her daughter Cassie had chipped nail varnish on her toes when she had a lot more to think about. 

But there are flashbacks to 1993, when they finished university and differing accounts of what happened on the night of the dinner. In each of these more dubious aspects of each character is revealed.

Cassie, her brother Benji and Jake, Karen’s son, were the only characters I really liked. They were the only ones who could see how tragic the events of the night and the few days after were and they were not thinking about the consequences for themselves. 

This is a great novel that made me question everything I was reading. I missed a lot, I suspected the wrong people and I seethed occasionally at the elitist attitudes. It is probably one of the most character driven novels that I have read recently. 

Claire McGowan will be appearing at First Monday Crime on October 7th 2019. Details can be found here https://www.firstmondaycrime.com/

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