Hello Again by Brenda Novak
|Hello Again by Brenda Novak|
|Reviewer: Stephen Leach|
|Summary: The second instalment of Brenda Novak's Evelyn Talbot series is every inch as good as the first – and probably better. Nauseatingly dark and genuinely scary.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: November 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Still scarred by the trauma inflicted on her by her boyfriend Jasper Moore more than twenty years previously, Evelyn Talbot works as a psychologist at Hanover House, a dumping ground for psychopathic criminals in a remote corner of Alaska. A murder in the nearby town seemed to indicate inmate involvement, but as the situation grew worse, Evelyn started to wonder whether Jasper might have returned to finally finish her off. After a book full of false clues and misleading hints, it was a genuine shock to find out who was responsible after all.
Hello Again opens with him making plans to find her once again, and I spent the entire book in agony hoping someone would stop him before he could.
The thing I liked the most about Her Darkest Nightmare (the first instalment of this series) was the way Novak made plain what was going to happen long before it took place. We, the reader, know what's coming, but the characters don't – and you wish you could warn them. In this, the second part of the story, she uses the same trick to great effect, flashing every so often to the killer's point of view and hinting at their plan. It almost makes you feel like you should look away… almost.
It helps, also, that I can't remember rooting quite so passionately for the main characters of a thriller in a long while. Evelyn and her boyfriend Amarok are exceptionally well-crafted characters, and Novak progresses the slow-burn romance between the two at a speed that's so tantalisingly slow it feels more like a tug of war.
Like its predecessor, Hello Again spends a sizeable chunk of its wordcount exploring what exactly it means to be psychopathic. This time around, we're given a window into Jasper's thoughts, seeing what makes him tick, the passionless way he views the world, and the nauseating entitlement with which he views his victims. In fact the series as a whole could be summed up by this theme of the evils done to women by men – in the wake of some recent headlines it feels almost uncomfortably on point – and the way in which whole lives can be blighted by selfish acts of depravity and evil. There's some truly stomach-churning moments, particularly towards the end of the story – ah, but even hinting at them would ruin the shock.
The only point I can find to criticise is the dialogue: it wasn't brilliant in the first book, and it's not great here, either. A lot of it feels quite stilted and unnatural, especially in the case of certain characters who aren't doctors or police but speak as though they are. The narration, too, often veers into being a little too expository – which I found frustrating, as I remembered the events of the first book perfectly and didn't need to be caught up.
If you read my review of Her Darkest Nightmare, you'll notice a lot of the points I've made are very similar to here – and that's because Hello Again, in terms of formula, is virtually the same. But that's fine. Novak has hit on something that works very well, and the good sense not to diverge from it. I'm not sure if book three will be the last, or if the series will go on afterwards – regardless, I'm in.
If you haven't already, then of course I would urge you to read Her Darkest Nightmare, part one in this fantastic series. Otherwise, if you finish this and are looking for something else to get into, The Dying Game by Asa Avdic is a brilliantly tense and original thriller.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hello Again by Brenda Novak at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hello Again by Brenda Novak at Amazon.com.
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