Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen

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Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen

Buy Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Liz Green
Reviewed by Liz Green
Summary: A good quick read, perfect for a journey
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 391 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Black Swan
ISBN: 9781784160173

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Tammy Cohen has written several books under the name Tamar Cohen, presumably to distinguish them from Dying for Christmas, her first foray into crime.

The book starts off promisingly enough with an introduction by Jessica, the narrator, who informs us that she is imprisoned by a stranger who is handsome and charming and extremely sadistic. Jessica then recounts the events leading up to and during her incarceration, which takes place over the Christmas period. Her jailer, Dominic, has prepared twelve presents for her, for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and each present-opening episode builds up a sense of dread while providing a deepening understanding of the sinister and bitter mind at work. Genuinely creepy stuff.

Giving some respite from some of the more gruesome details of Jessica's imprisonment, Tammy Cohen depicts in counterpoint the work of the team looking into her disappearance. The investigation is driven by an ambitious detective, Kim, who is being forced by her husband into a choice between her career and her family. This is an interesting side story and the book might have had more depth had Tammy Cohen decided to develop this aspect further.

The first half of the book is extremely enjoyable, in a twisted kind of way, and eminently readable. However, I wasn't too clear on where the story was going. It didn't seem to fit into the whodunit or even the whydunit category - the perpetrator's motives were seemingly being revealed with each new present unwrapped. As the book progressed, I reached a point where I couldn't see how Tammy Cohen could continue in the same vein for another hundred and fifty pages. But then she astounded me with such an unexpected change of direction that I had to question everything. Indeed, she proved herself a master storyteller, one who leads her unsuspecting, and trusting, readers by the nose. Yet despite this clever shift in plot and perspective, the latter part of the book is somehow less exciting and rather predictable, leading to an unsurprising but nevertheless fairly satisfying denouement where every loose end was tied up neatly.

All in all this book ought to add up to a jolly good read. So why only three and a half stars? Well, somehow, the book was less than the sum of its parts. The plot was exciting - startling, even - and the story was cleverly structured with interesting, albeit undeveloped, sidelines. The characters, however, lacked depth and I didn't much care what happened to any of them. Once I'd changed direction with the author, it was obvious where the plot was heading and the final surprises, such as they were, weren't enough to thrill me.

It's a well written book, nonetheless, and ideal if you want to while away three or four hours on a journey. But I suspect I'll have forgotten it in a couple of weeks.

Try Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for another book with twists you couldn't possibly anticipate.

For another missing girl story, with a victim who is an unreliable narrator, have a look at The Calling by Alison Bruce.

Buy Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen at Amazon.com.


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