Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 May 2022 from Michael Joseph
It’s every parent’s nightmare.
Your happy, funny, innocent son commits a terrible crime: murdering a complete stranger.
You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your teenage boy is in custody and his future lost.
That night you fall asleep in despair. Until you wake . . .
. . . and it is yesterday.
Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. Another chance to stop it.
Somewhere in the past lie the answers, and you don’t have a choice but to find them . . .
If you’re going to play with suspension of disbelief in order to deliver a riveting psychological thriller then you really do have to be very careful to make sure the plotting is immaculate and the premise sufficiently compelling to allow the reader to skip over the disbelief part. That Gillian McAllister achieves this and in doing so makes it feel effortless is no less than a triumph.
I was absolutely glued to Wrong Place, Wrong Time from start to finish. This is excellent writing wrapped up in a really interesting proposition and delivered faultlessly.
The crime is straightforward and no less shocking for that. No spoilers here for we start with a fatal stabbing of a stranger by a young man, Todd right in front of Jen, his mother who has been waiting up for him wanting to make sure he gets safely home.
Todd is arrested and Jen spends a difficult night on the sofa, finally falling asleep despite herself. She has no idea who the victim is or even why her son would have had a knife. Todd is a happy science nerd, not some teenager in a gang and she can’t fathom what would have driven him to this.
But when she wakes after a fitful night, she finds that time has slipped and she is in the day before the crime. Now she can begin to unravel the time before the crime; to delve into who this stranger was and why her son was involved enough with him to commit murder against him.
In a beautifully structured plot, Jen’s journey is one that takes her progressively back in time while she slowly realises that by understanding what has happened and how the timeline progressed, she might just have an opportunity to intervene and change the course of events.
As McAllister takes Jen back in time, further and further we not only learn about Jen, her partner Ryan and their son Todd, but we have an opportunity to understand the choices that they have made as a family and how those choices have impacted on the events leading up to the murder.
This means that Jen is constantly asking herself questions about what she could have done differently and the extent to which she may have contributed to the terrible outcome in which her lovely, funny son commits a terrible knife crime.
Beautifully plotted, full of surprises and absolutely winning me over, I was captivated and enthralled by this thrilling and original story. The characters are great and you really do care about Jen and because you do, her need to understand the course of events becomes yours. You need Todd to have a rational explanation for what has gone before; you will Jen on to get to the truth before Todd is convicted of murder. I was on tenterhooks throughout and the whole book is so well plotted and convincingly written that I didn’t once have to stop and question the premise. It just works and works completely.
Verdict: Brilliantly clever, utterly convincing. A real winner that’s bound to be a huge success.
Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree before working as a lawyer. She lives in Birmingham, where she now writes full-time. She is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Everything But the Truth, Anything You Do Say, No Further Questions, The Evidence Against You, How To Disappear and the Richard & Judy Book Club pick That Night. She is also the creator and co-host of the popular Honest Authors podcast.