Source: Review copy
Publication: 8 July 2021 from Michael Joseph
My thanks to the publisher for an opportunity to review in advance
Sometimes, the true story is the hardest to believe.
TONY has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when Nick is badly hurt and it looks like he was the victim of sexual assault, Tony’s anger flares.
JULIA is alarmed by her husband Tony’s obsession with Nick’s case. She’s always known Tony has a temper. But does she really know what he’s capable of?
NICK went out for a drink. After that, everything’s a blank. When he woke up he found himself in a world of confusion and pain, and the man who hurt him doesn’t deny doing it. But he says the whole thing was consensual.
Three ordinary people; one life-shattering event. And when the police get involved, this family in crisis might be capable of anything . . .
Wow! This is an impressive debut. Tony and Nick are brothers, albeit with different mothers. Tony has always protected his younger sibling and so when he hears that Nick has been hospitalised, he rushes to his bedside. Nick has been badly beaten and it transpires that he has been the victim of a brutal sexual assault.
Julia is Tony’s wife and the couple have two young children. Once a lawyer, now focussing on legal policy issues, she knows about such cases. So she feels reassured when Detective John Rice is assigned to the case. He’s a seasoned detective and they both know that he said/he said cases are notoriously difficult to prove in the absence of corroborating evidence.
Nick’s attacker, Raymond Walker is not stupid either. He knows only too well how to play the innocent and it even looks like he’s enjoying the challenge. He’s been arrested and is out on bail, but he’s making the most of his freedom to paint himself as the injured party. Tony is apoplectic with rage.
Julia is both worried for Nick and fearful of what Tony will do. She knows only too well that he has had to work hard to control himself after living with an abusive father and his white hot anger is scaring her.
Caitlin Wahrer’s book sensitively handles the male rape and focusses mainly on the fall-out from that event on Nick’s family. She beautifully portrays the life-changing impact of this assault not just on Nick, but on all those the rape has touched, including Julia herself. Nick is very vulnerable, but he is also hiding something; something he can’t bring himself to tell anyone. Wahrer’s characters are beautifully drawn and this slow burner of a psychological drama feels authentic.
Especially relevant in our digital age is the huge weight of uninformed comment and speculation on social media that does no more than pile an unbearable amount of pressure on Nick and his family. Nick really struggles and as he does so, Tony’s rage intensifies, and that in turn increases Nick’s despondency.
The book follows a dual timeline, starting in 2019 and looking back to the events surrounding the rape in 2015. The premise is straightforward enough – the idea that you might be provoked into doing something truly terrible to defend the one you love. But Caitlin Warher’s book is more subtle and nuanced than that and it plays with this notion while offering some surprising and left-field solutions that make this a rather clever, twisty and remarkable read.
Verdict: Beautifully written, cleverly plotted and sensitively portrayed, this is a debut that has everything I look for in a seasoned psychological thriller. I will be keeping an eye out for Caitlin Wahrer’s next book.
Caitlin Wahrer is a Maine girl through and through. She was born to two hippies who raised her in Canaan, a small town in central-southern Maine without a single stoplight in it. Caitlin left the state for four years to study criminal justice and marriage and family studies at a college in Pennsylvania. She returned to Maine after graduation to attend law school. She practices civil litigation in Portland. She and her husband, also a lawyer, live in South Portland with their dog.