Debut novelist Holly Seddon gives readers a compelling mystery in Try Not to Breathe. Using fifteen-year old memories from the victim’s perspective, Seddon cleverly doles out disturbing tidbits of the seedy seduction and brutal assault of an underage girl without identifying the culprit. Seddon leaves that discovery to her tortured protagonist Alex Dale.
Journalist Alex Dale, once a highly respected and well-paid columnist for the Times, is now chasing lowly freelance work in and around London. A barely functioning alcoholic, Alex has lived a life filled with scenes that belong in the Academy Award-winning film Leaving Las Vegas. Her daily battle with the demons of addiction is visceral and heartbreaking.
While interviewing a scientist who claims to be able to communicate with brain-dead patients, Alex finds herself at the bedside of comatose assault victim Amy Stevenson. The unsolved crime grabbed headlines fifteen years earlier, and Amy’s familiar face draws Alex’s interest, turning the profile piece into an investigative jaunt to discover whodunit.
Alex proves a competent investigator during her few sober hours each day. She coerces Amy Stevenson’s teenage sweetheart, the only person from Amy’s past who continues to visit her, to aid the investigative efforts. She rips open the deepest wounds of her alcoholic past to further her search for answers, contacting her ex-husband, a policeman with access to the old case files. While Alex ultimately puts together circumstantial evidence that points to the perpetrator, the prosecution hinges on new-age neuroscience techniques that can draw answers from unresponsive patients.
Try Not to Breathe is a tightly constructed mystery. Seddon demonstrates her literary chops without ever taking her foot off the accelerator. She creates suspense easily, and keeps stakes high without having to resort to over-the-top action or unbelievable behavior. Readers will be eagerly awaiting the author’s next effort.
Clay Snellgrove is the author of The Ball Player. He’s a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. A former professional baseball player, Clay holds an MFA in creative writing from Converse College.
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