NR: Lock Me In

Lock Me In by Kate Simants is another book I acquired in a three for a fiver deal at The Works. I may even have snagged it in tandem with last Monday’s suitable case for treatment, The Family.

Ellie Powers is a young woman who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. By day she has an almost normal life, with a job and a boyfriend, but at night she has to be locked in her room in case the violent alternative personality Siggy takes control. Ellie’s mum Christine, a former television news journalist, has given up everything to take care of Ellie. When Ellie’s boyfriend Matt disappears and the door of Ellie’s bedroom has been forced open, Ellie and her mother fear the worst. To make matters even worse, investigating Matt’s disappearance is DS Ben Mae, who has met Ellie years previously when her friend Jodie Arden disappeared. But as he digs deeper Mae learns things about Matt that suggest he had an agenda of his own, including a connection with Charles Cox, the discredited therapist who treated Ellie and was sleeping with Jodie, and is suspected of her murder.

There are three strands to this story, with chapters written from the perspective of Mae and Ellie, plus extracts from interviews Charles Cox conducted with Ellie. Early on I suspected that one of the characters was not kosher, but Simants surprised me with the back story and the numerous complications that it involved – a book where the how and why are more important than the who. Simants gives us an ingenious thriller, one with twists and turns, plus surprises at the end of nearly every chapter that force the reader to constantly re-evaluate where the story is going.

Intricate as the plot is, it’s the characterisation that makes the book work so well. Ellie’s personality is put over with conviction, somebody who is confused about what she is capable of and who she is, only to discover that nothing is quite how she believes. With padding courtesy of the Cox interviews, Simants draws a convincing picture of Ellie’s illness and the kind of behaviour it might make her prone to. Mae is a man driven by the flaws in his past, the mishandling of the original case regarding Jodie Arden, with attendant guilt for the tragedy that nearly occurred as a result. With his Korean background and the mother who deserted him, failed marriage and mixed race daughter Bear who is being picked on at school, he is an intriguing and fully rounded character, someone who is far from perfect but doing his best to do right by everybody regardless. As a foil he has DC Kit Ziegler, the by the book trainee who is assigned to shadow him and more than proves her worth as an investigator. These two play off each other with gusto, their banter providing bright moments in the story as it moves further into the darkness. Each of them is damaged in their own way, and each has methods to deal with the pain. As the story nears its end there is a very welcome hint that they may become romantically involved in the future and while I’m not sure that I would read the books I’d welcome Simants returning to the characters.

The only wrong note for me involved the fate of Jodie Arden, which struck me as very much against the run of play, though I can’t really dismiss it as lacking credibility. It just didn’t feel right to me, but it’s a minor point, and taken as a whole the book was eminently readable, gripping, and enjoyable. If you’re in the mood for a fast paced thriller, one that’ll keep you guessing, then Lock Me In might just fit the bill.

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