Leah lives on her own, surrounded by books, with a job in a library and no social life it is clear to the reader from page one that she is troubled by her past, but why is a mystery. Longing to make a connection with someone she begins lurking on a dating website where she meets moderator Julian and she starts to feel braver and for a while she believes she can leave the past behind her but everything changes on the fourteenth anniversary of the event she is running from when she receives an anniversary card. It is obvious someone isn’t going to let her forget.
I hadn’t heard of Kathryn Croft before I started reading this book, although I’ve since discovered this is in fact the third psychological thriller novel that she’s written, and the web of intrigue that she has invented for Leah certainly had me convinced. Right from the beginning of the book I could visualise Leah sat in her dismal flat, could picture her losing herself amongst the pages Of Mice and Men, her solitary dinners and then her lifeline to a more normal world, mere fingertips away on her laptop. As she begins to bond with Maria at the library I was urging her on, sure that whatever had happened couldn’t really justify a life half lived.
As well as seeing how Leah is living her life now, we also meet her as she starts secondary school, a new teacher, new friends, first Imogen and then Corey and then as they reach year ten, a new boy joins the school, Adam and Leah loses her fears that she will never be interested in boys. School life is notoriously hard to recreate in novels possibly because we look back with adult eyes, but Kathryn Croft pulls it off these sections convincingly so that these occasional chapters detailing Leah’s teenage years not only add substance to the novel, they also transported me back to my school days.
One of the problems with books that are marketed as ‘for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train’ is that it invites readers to make the comparison, and usually the book comes up wanting. This book is nothing like those two except that it is in the same genre, although unlike many with this tag-line, it is utterly gripping, well-written and engaging. By opening with a description of a car crash, it is likely that something awful will happen and with the structure of short chapters I was eager to find out what! With Leah understandable scared by the events that unfold in the present with the background of her past, the tension levels merely switched between taut and tauter until finally as taut as an elastic band that is going to ping you in the face at any moment. I don’t usually talk about endings but again, due to the weakness or sheer unbelievable elements that litter this genre, this one is convincing and I’m proud to say that for once I did have my suspicions, will you?
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of this book, in return for my review and to wish Kathryn Croft every success with this excellent read. The Girl With No Past was published on 15 October 2015.