Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbour John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.
After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbours out to get her, too? As tension in the neighbourhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.
I am on a roll. I have just read another book that is in the running for my book of the year and by someone who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Every book Catherine McKenzie writes is different from the last and keeps me turning the pages, desparate to know what happens next. This is the best yet I have to say.
Fractured is about a friendship that no one but the two people involved seem happy about. That’s because they are a man (John) and a woman (Julie) and they are both married to other people. No one seems to think their relationship can be innocent, including their spouses, nosey neighbours and children. The pressure this suspicion creates leads to some unpleasant scenes and some unpleasant behaviour, cranking up the tensions in the street and amongst the neighbours and feeding on itself as every action becomes analysed and – in most cases – misunderstood.
Central amongst these misunderstandings is Julie herself and how she behaves. She is a newly published and surprisingly successful debut author whose sudden fame led to her being stalked by a former college friend. Her family’s move to Cincinnati was to escape and start again, something they very much needed but every step she takes, getting security cameras for example, is scrutinised and a negative connotation added – often by her nosey and judgemental neighbour Cindy.
As a reader, you have some of those suspicions yourself as you learn that Julie’s book may have been based on a true life murder – or suspected murder – of a friend and that she may know more about this than she is letting on. This adds another dimension to the book as I started to question what I was reading and wondering if I was been led down a different path than I thought I was on.
Over the course of a year, with the story being told backwards from when Julie and her family first moved, you see things start to unravel. Julie and John tell their versions in alternating chapters. These are interspersed with chapters focusing on the present as John prepares to give evidence before a grand jury. Things, it seems, have gone badly wrong. You don’t know how badly or just what has happened and don’t until the final pages.
It’s a really great way of telling a story and one I like when it’s done well. It lets things unfold slowly and means you don’t jump to as many conclusions as you might otherwise. You get to know the characters and sympathise with them – which I did for each in this case (even Cindy). They were well drawn and felt very real. I could imagine Julie’s stress and anxiety but also how this must have come across to others. Her past also made her selfish and self-centred in many ways – again, I understood why but I could also understand how this could rub others up the wrong way. It also made me frustrated with her and sometimes I wish I could reach through the pages and grab her.
That I was so involved is a sign of a good book for me and this really was. It was a clever story that was well written with great, complex, characters. I don’t feel I can say enough about it or recommend it more highly. A great read – loved it!
Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.
Finally: You might also be interested in my other reviews of Catherine McKenzie’s books: