Following the award winning Ice Trap, Kitty Sewell returns with another psychological thriller in the form of Bloodprint (Simon and Schuster). Of one thing we can be reliably certain with Sewell – she draws on her own life experiences in creating her fiction, writing about what she knows. Where Ice Trap drew on an experience of her husband in relation to paternity and her own experiences of living in the cruel north American snow-bound winters, Bloodprint draws on her experiences of having trained and worked as a psychotherapist in the main. Bloodprint has no restrictions on geography either; the novel manages to cross the Atlantic and take in Cuba, Key West, Georgian Bath in England, a hint of London's sordid backstreets and a foray into Wales (ending up at Tenby, a "must-have-experienced-at-least-once-holiday" for many in the UK, unless suffered in poor Rachel's circumstances). So what is the novel about?
Following the tragic death of her beloved husband due to a hurricane, Madeleine Frank flees the Florida Keys to Bath where she seeks succour in therapy; training and then starting to work as a psychotherapist in private practice. Suddenly one day comes a new, unexpected and difficult patient, Rachel. Initially, she is obviously hostile and appears to be there under duress or to prove a point to someone else. As their sessions progress, Madeleine discovers that Rachel is a very damaged and abused woman, who thinks most of protecting her son (from the actions and activities of his own father). Madeleine also finds that Rachel's life throws up a mirror to her own and the secrets of both have more in common than could ever have been imagined.
The suspense in this novel is based on the drip-feed disclosure of secrets from both parties – and what a couple of webs they weave between them. But will they become interwoven? Go on, buy the book and find out for yourself. It's a very good read, full of suspense and the bad side of human beings as well as hope.
Sewell's evocation of time, place, culture, emotion and humanity (or lack of) is excellent. But Bloodprint did feel overlong, leading to frustration to get at the ending. Part of Madeleine's persona is that she is an artist as well and the daughter of a renowned artist; her interest in ants, on top of that, tended to distract and frustrate in slowing down the suspense. I could take the painting – just, but the ant-interest was hard to endure.
Again, this contemporary crime novel reflects society today in covering prostitution, illegal immigrants and trafficked women – a problem we face but would perhaps choose to ignore (as a whole in society - well there's not a sisterhood campaign going on out there right now, is there?). Bloodprint also covers domestic abuse to some extent. Sewell makes it all very real because of a child and because of the innocence of that child, both at risk. Bloodprint will make you think.
Above all and without giving the game away, this is a book about humanity and linking to the next human being and not risking their destroyal because of ambition. It's a fable of our times, given the current economic climate and a timely publication. A must-read please!
One last word to S&S: thank you for a trade PB that (1) does not have (non-green) excessive white space on each page (margins on all sides) and, (2) has a font to die for! This was the best in-bed and low-light book I have read since … when exactly? You can see the prose clearly and it's not because the book has been elongated because of extensive white margins. Lovely stuff! But let's not forget that some of us want a shorter read and not a longer one. I already groan at 400+ pages and sigh with exhaustion at the suggestion of more than that, letting it go… So please publishers, contain your authors' thoughts or your own on what makes a good novel in terms of volume of prose. Word count is not key; the storytelling is. The quality of the story lies not in word count but in the story itself. But for readability, S&S have coined it here. I could not ask for more.