Source: Review copy
Publication: 28th August 2020 from Trapeze
Narrators: Stephanie Racine, Damian Lynch, Chris Reilly, Tuppence Middleton, Perdita Weeks
Length: 11 hours 13 minutes
Congratulations, someone wants you dead.
When Marianne’s husband, Greg, is knocked off his bike and killed on the way to work, she must unpick the life he left behind. Numb with grief, Marianne consoles herself by scouring Greg’s laptop, finding comfort in reading his old emails and tracing his footsteps across the web. Until one day, she discovers that he had been accessing the dark web. Why was Greg, a principled charity worker and dedicated husband, logging on to a website that showcases the worst of humanity’s cruel impulses and where anything is available for a price? Marianne steels herself and logs on. After tentative searching, she discovers her name on a hit list.
In this fast-paced, powerful and exceptionally plotted novel, Marianne must figure out whether Greg was trying to protect her or whether he was complicit in the conspiracy for her murder. As she is pulled deeper into the depths of the underworld that Greg was seemingly hostage to, she gets closer and closer to coming face to face with Sam – the assassin hired to kill her. The dark truths that Marianne uncovers speak volumes about the dark underbelly of our society and forces us to question how far we would go to protect those we care most about.
It’s just as well that Holly Seddon’s The Hit List has multiple narrators because this book is so twisty and moves about so much, you do need to understand who is talking at any given point.
The initial scenario is riveting: a grieving young widow is taking what comfort she can by trying to keep close to her dead husband. She re-reads his e-mails, looks at the photos he keeps on his laptop and generally just spends hours tracing him though his online activity for no other reason than to know he made footsteps in the sand that she can look at.
In the first part of this twisty thriller our protagonists are Marianne, Greg’s widow and Sam. Marianne is spending the anniversary of Greg’s death looking for his footsteps. Only this time, she discovers that Greg had been active on the dark web, using a Tor browser. Now Greg was a gentle soul; a charity worker whose raison d’être was to help people. She cannot imagine what he could possibly have been doing on the dark web and is really worried. What concerns her deeply though is that she finds a webpage with ‘hit-lists’ on it and her name is on one such list.
She begins to question everything she ever thought she knew about her husband as she desperately tries to rationalise how on earth this could have happened. There are four other names on the list alongside hers – so she will begin by researching each of them. None of them are people she knows.
Having completely hooked me and reeled me in, Seddon then takes us to our second narrator, Sam. Sam is the person charged with carrying out the executions on the hit list that Marianne features on.
I love that we get Sam’s story alongside those of the others and slowly begin to understand something of what is going on and how Greg was drawn in to the dark web.
Seddon knows how to ramp up the tension and she certainly loves a great cliffhanger; often I was left holding my breath as another surprising moment came up unannounced. There’s a wonderful sense of geography in this book too. There are multiple locations and each is meticulously described in a way that enables the reader to ‘see’ them and that makes the tension more palpable when a killer is in the same place as their potential victim.
That’s good because by the time you have been dragged down into the well of iniquity that is the dark web and have discovered what is behind the hit list and what savage acts have been committed, you’re going to understand that all these things have happened in the plain light of day as people go about their ordinary business in the places that you have just seen and understood in your mind’s eye. Somehow, everything hits that much harder as a result.
Seddon weaves a dark web…ok, Seddon uses the dark web to weave an ever darker tale made the more terrifying because it has ordinary people caught up in it with nowhere to turn. By the time you have heard Greg’s story and then some of the others, you will realise what a terrible tangle he was in.
It’s a complex plot and fortunately very well narrated by an excellent cast making it easy to follow as the pace hots up and the tension grips and you realise just who is behind everything and why this has happened.
Verdict: I enjoyed and was entertained by The Hit List. I did sometimes want to smack a couple of the characters because their actions made me stop and suspend my disbelief, but this is fiction after all and a beautifully structured, nicely twisted tale at that!
Holly Seddon’s first book, TRY NOT TO BREATHE, was published in 2016 and went on to be a bestseller in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia. A USA Today bestseller, it was also an audiobook, paperback and e-book bestseller in various countries. Her second novel, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, was published in July 2017 in the UK, USA and in many other countries. In May 2o18, it hit number one in the audiobook charts. LOVE WILL TEAR US APART was published in June 2018. She is one half of the Honest Authors, co-hosting a fortnightly podcast on the realities of life as a published author.