Title: The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the acclaimed author of The Bones of You comes a haunting and heartbreaking new psychological thriller about a man thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, forced to confront the secrets of his ex-lover’s past.
“I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. . .”
So begins the testimony of Noah Calaway, an ex-lawyer with a sideline in armchair criminal psychology. Now living an aimless life in an inherited cottage in the English countryside, Noah is haunted by the memory of the beguiling young woman who left him at the altar sixteen years earlier. Then one day he receives a troubling phone call. April, the woman he once loved, lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose–and the lead suspect in a brutal murder. Deep in his bones, Noah believes that April is innocent. Then again, he also believed they would spend the rest of their lives together.
While Noah searches for evidence that will clear April’s name, a teenager named Ella begins to sift through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age as April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when at last, the truth emerges.
Or so everyone believes. . .
Set in a borderland where the past casts its shadow on the present, with a time-shifting narrative that will mesmerize and surprise, The Beauty of the End is both a masterpiece of suspense and a powerful rumination on lost love.
With an intriguing premise and an interesting spin on the unreliable narrator plot device, The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells is a riveting mystery that moves at a steady pace to a somewhat shocking and unexpected conclusion.
Noah Calaway is a part-time solicitor and author who lives a solitary life in the countryside. However, a phone call about his ex-fiancée April Moon pulls him out his self-imposed exile when he decides to look into the circumstances surrounding her apparent suicide attempt. Even more surprising than the supposed overdose is the crime April is suspected of committing-the murder of her stepfather Bryan Norton. Although he has not seen her since she inexplicably ended their engagement years earlier, Noah is convinced April is not capable of murder and he has serious doubts she tried to kill herself. As he pulls back the layers of this enigmatic and complex woman whom he has worshipped from the moment he first saw her, Noah is forced to revisit old memories and revise his perception of long ago events. But will this new insight and information about the past lead Noah to the truth about what is happening in the present?
Noah’s infatuation with April began as a teen and despite their complicated history, he still views her as perfect and completely flawless. In the past, he easily excused her faults and he turned a blind eye to her less than appealing traits. Their paths crossed many times over the years and although April broke his heart more than once, Noah never hesitated to give her a second chance. But as he begins to investigate the murder of her stepfather and her overdose, he gradually realizes that he willingly ignored, consciously overlooked and simply blocked out anything that contradicted his vision of her “perfection”.
Noah was guilty of this willful ignorance of facts with his childhood friend, Dr. Will Farrington, as well. He caught on much quicker to Will’s manipulation and arrogance much sooner, but unfortunately not before Will interfered with his relationship with April. Noah has not had any contact with either Will or April in years so he is surprised when Will calls to tell him about the situation with April. Never forgetting Will’s betrayal, Noah still remains a little naive as he initially takes everything Will tells him at face value. It is not until he scratches below the surface of April’s life that he begins to realize what Will might be capable of but Noah still cannot figure out where he fits into the current situation. By the time Noah eventually pieces together all of the clues will it be too late to save himself from his old friend’s lies and manipulations?
In addition to Noah’s first person narration of past and present events, there are occasional passages from a teenager’s therapy sessions. Ella is the daughter of wealthy parents whose lives are often so busy they do not have time for their child. Forced to see a therapist by her mother, Ella tries to keep her sessions impersonal as she dances around the real reason her relationship with her parents is so strained. Seemingly unrelated to Noah’s drama, the two storylines finally converge as the novel nears its explosive finale.
The Beauty of the End is an intricately plotted mystery that will leave readers reeling as Noah uncovers a sinister plot as he tries to prove April’s innocence. Atmospheric and full of chilling secrets, lies and manipulations, this latest release by Debbie Howells is a must read for anyone who enjoy a well-written, suspense-laden psychological mystery.