Wish Me Dead

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Helen Grant
June 2011
441 pp
Whole book read
Let me begin with a reminder of how much I admired Helen Grant's first two novels, each of which received ACHUKA's top rating of five gold chicks. You can read my reviews of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden ("not one single moment of disappointment, not one wavering of tone, not one narrative misjudgment awaits the reader in this impressively assured debut novel") and The Glass Demon ("as she did in her first novel...Grant cranks up the drama and excitement with impeccable pace and timing") here: archive (scroll down - this review will be on top).

Her third novel is, like the first, set in the small town of Bad Munstereifel, and begins reasonably lightheartedly as a kind of Five Children and It in reverse. Instead of child characters, the friends in this book are all in their late teens, and act and behave accordingly. Instead of their wishes (made on scraps of paper and left in a deserted house) going comically wrong, they are granted precisely as asked. Each time it is Steffi (the book's narrator) whose wish is granted. For obvious reasons this unsettles her, particularly when people begin dying.

Steffi, who works in the family bakery and cafe, is a vivid presence and her voice is the driving force of the novel, as it has to be. The experiences she undergoes become increasingly horrific. The ratcheting up of the tension is not, however, as well handled here as in the first two novels. There are signs that it was not so tightly edited, both at individual paragraph level, and in terms of its narrative trajectory and structure. Grant is a fluent writer, but at times her fluency produces more words where fewer would serve more strongly. The novel would be better for being fifty pages shorter.

An Amazon reviewer feels that the brief return of Steffi's sister was 'pointless'. I agree with that. The father's illness is sufficient in itself to add roundness to Steffi's character (as well as ensuring Steffi is alone in the bakery at a crucial time in the plot's development) and allows Grant to ensure the reader remains sympathetic towards her main character.

It's still a good read and like the first two books would make superb TV drama.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on November 5, 2011 7:05 PM.

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