Review: Dear Amy – Helen Callaghan

I kindly received an advance copy of Dear Amy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author and publisher.

About the book: Dear Amy

Published: 16th June 2016 (Penguin UK – Michael Joseph)

Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters – but none like the one she’s just received:

‘Dear Amy,
I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery’

Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything . . .

My Review:

imageI kindly received an advance copy of Dear Amy and it was beautifully packaged up with 2 very realistic letters that set the scene of the book.

Margot Lewis is an agony aunt for the local paper, The Cambridge Examiner’ alongside her full time occupation as a Classics teacher – for the paper she goes under the pseudonym of Amy. Margot is also in the process of separating and divorcing her husband therefore adapting to life as a single woman.

As Amy, Margot receives lots of letters, both people seeking help and her pupils trying to make a joke out of her column. However, she has never received a letter like the one she does at the start of the book, from a girl who has been missing for years without a trace, begging for help.

Whilst suspecting that the letter is a hoax, Margot takes it to the police station as a precaution. A subsequent letter is received soon after which Margot also takes to the police however she feels that they are not taking it seriously and does not expect to hear anything further from them.

Bethan Avery was presumed dead because a bloodied nightdress was found shortly after her disappearance however her body was never found. These letters  cast doubt upon that theory and prick the interest of a local policeman as they contain information that was never made public knowledge and also are similar in style and handwriting to a journal of Bethan’s that they have.

Dear Amy is a very well-written debut novel with dark undertones of a past intermingled with a respectable present. I liked Callaghan’s writing style and the realistic letters in the book. From the start of the novel, we begin to understand that Margot is a very different person than she was in the past, hiding addiction and actions that she is not proud of. As the story progresses, the darkness of Margot’s past unravels.

Dear Amy is an alien concept in this age because there is not much hint of technology other than mobile phones and email – it is interesting that the book focuses on written letters rather than other forms of social media that would possibly receive a wider audience and quicker response for Bethan.

Currently, the market is saturated with psychological thrillers so it is difficult to shock. I enjoyed this book but I did have it worked out quite early on and I found the police investigation a little lacking in today’s age of forensics – maybe I watch too many episodes of CSI! There were elements of the plot that were not so obvious which kept me gripped until the end.

This was an enjoyable read and I would recommend to others, there was enough tension and unanswered questions to keep me reading and I look forward to reading more from Helen Callaghan in the future.

About the author:

Helen Callaghan was born in California to British parents and her early years were spent in both the US and UK.

After several early false starts as barmaid, drama student, and nurse, she settled into bookselling, working as a fiction specialist and buyer for Athena Bookshop, Dillons and Waterstones over the next eight years. Though she loved life as a bookseller, Helen was drawn back to her studies. This decision proved to be rather a good one, and after studying for her A-levels at night school, she achieved a place to read Archaeology at Cambridge University as a mature student. Her interests include medieval cookery, hiking, running, and travel. She is fascinated by the past, and can frequently be found haunting ancient monuments. She blogs about these enthusiasms at www.helencallaghan.co.uk

She now runs her own business and lives in Cambridge.

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