I’ve done a lot of grizzling on this blog about the implausibility, and ultimately the predictability of thrillers (most recently, Second Life and Girl on the Train). So it’s with great excitement that I actually recommend a thriller – Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.
I won’t say much about the plot, short of the fact that it’s the story of Yvonne Carmichael, who’s on trial for murder. The novel begins as a courtroom drama and then rewinds to reveal how Yvonne ended up in front of a judge – particularly intriguing given the fact that she is, by all measures, an ‘ordinary’ woman – happily married, a successful scientist, mother to two adult children.
A few notable things about this novel – firstly, Doughty’s writing is solid. The plot twists did what plot twists should (and surprised me), and although the moment that sets the story in motion (an impulsive decision) is a little far-fetched, what unfolds is plausible and the characters are convincing.
Secondly, Doughty avoids the standard ‘cat-and-mouse’ story. I don’t read many thrillers but those that I have read nearly all follow a formula – the main character is stalked and the climax is in the confrontation. Apple Tree Yard had neither of those elements and yet was still highly suspenseful. Doughty’s unusual plot structure (the novel begins with the trial however you don’t know who Yvonne has murdered or why) had me looking in vain for hints as the story unfolded. The result is a tense, well-paced thriller that had me guessing almost until the very last page.
3.5/5 Would make a ripping beach-read.
The two main characters meet for coffee (and other things…).