I loved reading the Sweetpea series by C.J. Skuse, the books were funny, witty and fantastic. Sweetpea is a psychotic anti-hero with a variety of interesting ways of killing people. So when I noticed that C.J. Skuse had a new novel out, The Alibi Girl, I thought I would give it a go although it was a completely different style of story.
JOANNE HAYNES HAS A SECRET.
THAT IS NOT HER REAL NAME.
And there’s more. Her flat isn’t hers. Her cats aren’t even hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.
Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels every so sorry. They’re all just alibis.
In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is.
But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out…
As I already mentioned, The Alibi Girl is a completely different style of book than the Sweetpea series that I enjoyed so much. This has a lot of the same dark humour but is also a complex story of murder, wanting to fit in, loneliness and ultimately mental illness.
The main character, Joanne (or whatever name she is using as the story progresses), has been placed into witness protection due to witnessing a murder years before. She gets through life by creating a different personality for different people she meets. We discover all these different identities and the reasons behind them slowly throughout the book, and they are never malicious.
She has done the same thing in other towns and all her personalities have caught up with her requiring several moves, never really settling, and annoying her handler. As the book progresses people start to notice her lies more and more. As she has done it so often, when someone is really noticing, someone who could be a problem, her witness protection handler doesn’t believe her and this could have devastating results.
The author handles the issues very well, and you do have a great deal of sympathy for the character and is quite believable for someone who hasn’t quite dealt with childhood issues and trauma. But whilst having a happy ending, for me it was very tame, and all wrapped up too neatly. The ending didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story of a woman stuck in her childhood and the happy times with her cousin Foy, who for the second half of the book has been trying to find her. Joanne is clearly a character that needs some professional help to help her through the traumas of her past but the book didn’t really deal with this.
I felt that this book could have been so much better if the ending had been much more realistic to Joanne’s circumstances. It isn’t a bad book, it is just not great, but C J Skuse does have a very good and enjoyable style of writing. At times it is quite dark and witty, other times sad. It is worth a read but I wasn’t blown away as I was with the Sweetpea series. Maybe I was spoiled with the character of Sweetpea and expected similar, you will just have to read and decide for yourself as it is unfair of me to try and compare the two as they are a completely different style of story.
RRP: £7.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)
Available to buy from Amazon here.