book review: A Double Life by Flynn Berry

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A DOUBLE LIFE by Flynn Berry
★★★★☆
Viking, July 31, 2018

Flynn Berry’s debut novel Under the Harrow was one of the more pleasant reading surprises I’ve had this year; I felt like I’d found a hidden gem that ticked all of my thriller boxes (atmospheric, dark, is more of a character study than a fast-paced page-turner). A Double Life just reinforced my appreciation of Berry’s style. I can see where her books won’t work for all thriller lovers, but they really work for me.

Loosely based on the Lord Lucan case, A Double Life follows Claire, whose father murdered her nanny, beat her mother, and vanished without a trace when she was a child. Now Claire is a successful doctor in London, but each possible sighting of her father sends her into such a state of anxiety she finally decides to seek answers for herself.

A Double Life is first and foremost a psychologically driven character study, which examines class and privilege and the role that plays in the crime that was committed. This kind of reminded me of something like The Secret History or Social Creature or The Riot Club, but instead of telling the story from an insular perspective that indulges in the fantasy of living that kind of possibly elite life, it’s like if The Secret History had been narrated by Richard’s mother, or someone else who was close enough to touch that lifestyle without actually living it. Consequently it’s not quite as glitzy and glamorous as any of those other stories mentioned, but it gives us a protagonist who’s easy to relate to and root for. The plot is gripping as well, though it’s not particularly twisty – but that’s fine as Berry’s writing keeps you engaged throughout.

Overall I have to say that I did prefer Under the Harrow to A Double Life since the former had more to offer in the way of atmosphere with its setting in the English countryside, but I did really enjoy this as well. If you prefer your thrillers to be character-driven and lean a bit more toward the literary side of things, I’d highly recommend giving Flynn Berry a try.

Thank you to Netgalley, Viking, and Flynn Berry for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

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