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KEEP HIM CLOSE by Emily Koch

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publisher: Harvill Secker

Pub Date: 19th March 2020

Review Date: 25th March 2020


One son lied. One son died.

Alice’s son is dead. Indigo’s son is accused of murder. Indigo is determined to prove her beloved Kane is innocent. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda…

Alice can’t tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed – and she needs to make sure that Indigo’s efforts to free Kane don’t put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper?

No one knows a son like his mother. But neither Alice nor Indigo know the whole truth about their boys, and what happened between them on that fateful night.

My Review

After reading and totally loving Emily Koch’s debut If I Die Before I Wake, I couldn’t wait to read her second novel Keep Him Close. The author’s first novel was exceptional, her skill as a writer transcending that of novelists with many books under their belt. Second novels, however, can often be the ‘make or break’ book, proving more challenging than the debut as it piles on the pressure for the author to repeat the same level of success. So, was Emily Koch able to sustain this for her second novel? Read on to find out…

Firstly, I was completely drawn in by both the story’s premise and its location. The story is set in and around central Bristol, moving towards the north side of the city. I have lived in Bristol all of my life, and the prison itself is somewhere that I walked past every day when I was at secretarial college. Just walking past this place sends shivers down your spine, and it seems hard to comprehend that houses have been built so close by, as if it is a school or something. The story centres around two women, Alice (whose son, Lou, has been killed) and Indigo (whose son, Kane, has been charged with his murder). Alice, lives in one of the houses that backs on to the prison, and the fact that her son’s killer is within such close proximity, immediately makes the story even more chilling.

Both women are single parents but characterisation of these two mothers are far from stereotypical. The mother of the victim has a stifled relationship with her son, whereas the mother of the accused has a more laid-back style of parenting and has a close bond with her son. When Indigo (mother of the accused) walks into the library where Alice (mother of the victim) works, wanting to access the internet to try and help her son, Alice soon discovers who Indigo is, but Indigo is oblivious to Alice’s identity. With chapters mostly alternating around the different perspectives of Alice and Indigo, this imbalance of knowing cleverly drives the narrative forward through the author’s choice of narrative perspective, where whilst Alice’s story is narrated in third-person, Indigo’s is told in first-person. This brings Indigo’s character slightly closer to the reader; and by extension, Kane’s story and whether he is really guilty or not, is what makes the story so compelling.

One of the themes running through the story is that things aren’t always what they first appear to be, and this is particularly true with Alice. Alice comes across as cold-hearted and not particularly likeable; however, as the story progresses, this changes and there are some real tear-jerker moments as we get to know both the real Alice and how her son really felt about her. The power of a mother’s love also runs strongly through the narrative, and this is put to the test when the two women put themselves in danger as they face some much darker characters in an attempt to find out what happened on that fateful night. I couldn’t help but think what a brilliant detective duo the two women would make in a future novel!

Emily Koch has absolutely smashed this second novel. Her skill for sucking the reader in to a brilliantly plotted storyline with fantastic characters really is quite something and I can’t wait for Book 3! I would recommend this book for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Jo Ullah, or Cara Hunter.

About the Author

Emily Koch is an author and journalist living in Bristol, UK, and is represented by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White.

Her second novel Keep Him Close came out in March 2020. The Sunday Times called it ‘a tense drama’ and Literary Review said it was ‘A moving account of family relationships and…devastating criminality’. The Sun said it was ‘Twisty, emotional and addictive’. Waterstones said I am ‘One of the most exciting new crime writers of our day.’

Emily’s debut novel If I Die Before I Wake was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award. It has also been longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, was selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month, and was one of Waterstones’ top paperbacks of 2019.

Thank you to the author for an Advance Review Copy of this book.

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