Here is an author that can start her latest book with a seemingly mundane argument, one of the kind that many married couples have, and yet for all its familiarity, I was instantly pulled into the story. Jane and Leon Campbell are off to his mother’s to celebrate his birthday. Both are tetchy; Leon because he’d rather spend his birthday doing what he wants to do and Jane because having to visit his mother for his birthday is somehow her fault. Put two young children, a car journey and a declined manuscript, her sixth, into the mix and it is easy to get the picture. So far so predictable as is the opposite neighbour’s untimely moan about an ongoing neighbourhood niggle. Jane is relieved when she can return to the house to pick up the forgotten beer while the disagreement rumbles on taking a deep breath before returning to the car. By the time she returns, this is no longer a normal day, it is one of the worst days of their lives.
I won’t say anything further about the plot because all of the above happens upfront, what comes next is thrilling, baffling and at times almost incomprehensible. How can such devastation occur out of the blue. To Jane, to Leon, to his brilliantly portrayed mother and sister, and to his two children. Life will never be quite the same again. Paula Daly has painted her supporting cast in equally bright characters from the Police who visit and tries and fails to be comforting, to the circle of friends that are most supportive but balk at revealing the secrets that they know Leon has concealed from Jane. Their actions, dialogue and interactions are all totally believable.
If all the excitement about what happens to Leon, why the police are involved, what they find and plenty more ‘whats’ besides, isn’t enough it should be noted that the couple are authors; Leon Campbell a well-known crime thriller writer while Jane is an aspiring women’s fiction. Leon has been very supportive of Jane in her quest to be published even if he does use his writing to get out of the many mundane jobs that are part and parcel of parenthood. Readers will be pleased to know that the fact he is an author is woven throughout the plot and what us readers love more than anything, is reading about books. So it’s a winner all around.
All I can say is that Paula Daly has done it again, by which I mean take an everyday event and transform it into the most gripping of reads. I will confess, despite having visitors this book was barely out of reach and I snatched it up at each and every opportunity. I anticipated another pure read of entertainment, and I got that in spades, but below the fast-paced thrills there is also a strong vein of truth of not just the emotional consequences of serious injury but the ongoing change to the person and those who are part of their lives.
Open Your Eyes is a psychological thriller that stands out from the crowd, perhaps because the characters are far from dislikeable, but you will have to be on the ball to work out the truth of the seemingly unsolvable puzzle. Even better I let out a pleased and satisfied sigh at the ending.
I’d like to thank the publisher Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Open Your Eyes prior to publication on 26 July 2018, and to Paula Daly for the rollercoaster ride.