In brief: Hanna is trying to get her life back together after an attack caused her serious injury and killed her husband. Now the killer is appealing, but the question everyone wants answered is if Hanna’s daughter was involved in the attack.
The good: The revelation towards the end of the book is explosive.
The not-so-good: A little slow initially as the background is set up.
Pages: 339 (ARC)
Publisher: Sphere (Hachette)
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Recently, the concept of domestic noir was explained to me by the kind folk at Hachette and I realised I’m quite a fan of this genre. I don’t know whether it’s because there’s a remote chance that something this weird could happen to anyone or if it’s a way to relate to the darker side of things using familiar settings, but I like it. It’s also a good genre to read on the winter nights because it’s perfectly acceptable to curl up under a blanket and keep on turning the pages. If She Did It fits solidly in this genre and is a great read with a slow burn that explodes near the end. It’s quiet initially, but sneaks up behind you to surprise you just when you think you have it figured out. (Note that this book is also called Lacy Eye, which is a play on words between Hannah and her husband for a deception).
The story of If She Did It is based on real life events. I didn’t know any of this reading the book, so everything was a surprise to me. Told in the first person by Hanna, who was brutally attacked in her home in an assault that left her husband dead, it deals with the aftermath of the case. The killer is now behind bars, but in the opening scenes Hanna finds out that he has won the right for appeal. The prosecutor also warns her that he has been speaking to her daughter Dawn from jail. Hanna brushes this off but it’s an ominous sign of things to come. Slowly, we learn what happened to Hanna and the events leading up to that fateful day. We learn about her daughters Iris and Dawn – chalk and cheese and how they have dealt with things after their father’s death. Iris, once happy and confident, is having marriage troubles and looking lacklustre. Dawn, stigmatised as a child for her lazy eye and lack of common sense, has moved away. But now Dawn wants to come home and there are quite a few people who think she had a role in the attack…did she do it?
The book started off a little slowly for me. I think I was expecting more about the initial event rather than Hanna reflecting on it (despite not remembering the attack). Enough titbits about Dawn’s youth and potential suspects for the attack kept me reading and when Dawn returned home, the story really kicked off for me. Suddenly, there was a lot of doubt in the air and when it’s coming from someone’s mother, you’d better sit up and take notice. More about Dawn’s past was being revealed (like she was known as ‘Ding-Dong’) and her strange need to be liked by the cool kids (now cool adults) had me intrigued. Had I labelled Dawn wrongly? Just as I began to have doubts, I was hit by a revelation that knocked me sideways. Surely…no…she wouldn’t…and then the pace of the book ran at hyper speed and I simply had to know what happened.
The way Jessica Treadway writes is to draw you in slowly in a world of domestic normalcy and then hit you. Looking back, I can see there were a few clues to what was going to come. But the way Hanna was drawn, as someone with memories missing (as well as a bias towards her own daughter) I chose to ignore them. It’s a clever book and those who enjoy a twist or three will devour If She Did It.