The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly

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The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Paul and Louisa met on a community development scheme whilst hiding from equally violent pasts. But maybe this was a mistake as the past is sometimes uncomfortably close. Perhaps, for them, it would have been better if they hadn't met at all. (Not, however, better for the reader as we'd have missed out on an absorbing read.)
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444703856

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Paul had the passion and academic grades to become a teacher. However, his plans started the slow slide away from his grasp after his father died and he and his mother were forced to move to the rough, Grays Reach Estate and an even rougher school. It seemed that his days as bully's target had ended when Daniel, illiterate and street-wise, stepped in as protector. All Paul had to do was cover for Daniel's disability in class... at least that was all he needed to do at first.

A couple of decades earlier Louisa had been a rebellious teenager, fighting her middle-class, privileged roots. One-night stands and being elusive towards those who fell in love with her was just part of life... till she met Adam. He was an aspiring rock singer, complete with band, and the real thing – love at first sight.

Fate decreed that Paul and Louisa's lives would collide on a community project, whilst recreating an Elizabethan garden. Here they would learn a lot, but not enough to realise that history has a way of repeating, and not always in a good way.

This is an excellent book but I have a tiny issue with its self-proclaimed genre. Despite the presence of an endorsement from the king of thrillers himself, Stephen King, The Sick Rose is not a thriller. The crescendo that leads to the ending is given away in the book's own blurb to begin with. You may not know how, but you have a good idea of when and what so that even who becomes immaterial. Even the reason behind the book's title, explained two-thirds in, is a bit of a spoiler (not to be revealed here). So, if this is indeed an excellent book and it's not a thriller, what is it?

The answer is simpler to explain than it would be to replicate. Erin Kelly has written a well thought out, skilfully executed study of destructive relationships and how the past is always lurking, threatening to contaminate the present and, indeed, the future. For example, Paul realises early on that Daniel has aspirations at the other end of the academic scale to his own. However, that doesn't bother him as Daniel's a good mate and protector and, indeed, Paul doesn't see anything getting in his way. Daniel, however, is devious, manipulative and fascinating to watch. (See what I mean? 'Fascinating' not 'thrilling' or 'chilling'.)

The author, in fact, pulls off a clever trick as we actually sympathise and feel sorry for Daniel. This she does by creating Carl, Daniel's father and reason for his bleak future. There is one particular poignantly written, telling episode when Daniel is standing in front of a mirror and, just for once, the fierce mask slips. We witness an inherent sadness whilst he visibly wonders what it would be like if he wasn't heading for crime, the family business. Carl may be a bit of a council estate, ruffian cliché, but clichés occur because there's some truth within them. This is the case here and a purpose is served. For the remainder of the book, no matter what Daniel does, we know, with different parenting, he could almost have been Paul.

Louisa's destructive relationship is with her wanna-be rock star, Adam. Erin Kelly effortlessly reproduces the clingy, claustrophobic nature of first love, accompanying jealousy and their ability to unhinge a previously logical mind as Louisa digs more deeply to uncover Adam's secret. (That was one revelation that did come as a surprise.)

Erin Kelly may not have written a thriller, but who cares? The Sick Rose shows that she is accomplished in interpreting the inner workings of the mind whilst turning it into riveting entertainment; a talent evident in few, envied by many and gratefully enjoyed by the likes of me.

I would like to thank the publisher for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and would like to take a look at Erin Kelly's back catalogue, try The Poison Tree.

Buy The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly at

Buy The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly at


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