On 31st December 1999, ten-year-old Amy Archer went missing from her local playground. Her body was never found and the lives of her parents, Beth and Brian, were torn apart.On the tenth anniversary of the disappearance, Beth is alone, still struggling with the enormity of her grief and the horror of not knowing the fate of her only child. But the fear and confusion have only just begun, and Beth's world is turned upside down when a stranger knocks on her door, claiming to know what happened to Amy.Beth is introduced to a little girl who is the uncanny double of her missing daughter, who knows things that only Amy would remember; the name of her favourite toy, the place where she scratched her initials, what Beth likes for breakfast. But this can't be Amy, she hasn't aged a day...Now Beth is forced to question everything she has ever believed in, and push her faith and her sanity to the limits, if she is to find out the truth about what happened to Amy.
The Second Life of Amy Archer by R S Pateman has been marketed as a psychological thriller that will appeal to fans of Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson. This is R S Pateman's debut novel and was published in hardback and trade paperback by Orion on 18 July 2013, the paperback edition will be released in April 2014.
There is something incredibly compelling about this novel, and despite the fairly lengthy chapters, the reader will keep on turning the pages to see what is around the corner.
The story is narrated in the first person by Beth Archer, the mother of Amy. Ten years ago Amy disappeared, it was the night of Millennium Eve and Amy was just ten-years-old. Beth has spent the last ten years desperately trying to find out what happened on that night. Her marriage to Amy's father Brian has collapsed and Beth lives alone - with just her memories and appears to be quite unstable and erratic. Then, out of the blue, Amy returns. Or does she? Esme is a small girl who claims that she is Amy. She looks like Amy, she knows things about Amy - but she's the same age as Amy was when she disappeared. Is this a case of reincarnation, or are Esme and her mother Libby confidence tricksters?
Beth dearly wants to believe that her little girl has been returned to her, she has visited many psychics over the years, she is prepared to believe anything - she just wants Amy home and safe. As events unfold, Beth is driven almost to distraction, she's not the most stable of characters to begin with and this new nightmare sends her closer and closer to the edge.
R S Pateman has written an exceptional debut in The Second Life of Amy Archer, he has managed to get into the head of a distraught mother very well. One would expect the reader to be wholly sympathetic to Beth, after all she is a mother who has lived everyone's worst nightmare. But she has an edge, she is an uncomfortable character and although the reader wants to believe her, it's difficult to accept her version of events and her actions at times.
This novel deals with some pretty dark and disturbing issues, it's not a read that will make you feel happy and joyful, it broods and the characters are often in despair. It is however, a read that encourages the reader to think hard about things, it doesn't serve everything up on a plate, the reader often has to make their own decisions.
A story with an unreliable narrator and a very ambiguous ending. Some readers will hate that ending, but not me. Life rarely goes the way that you want it to so why should fiction?
R.S. Pateman has been a copywriter working with some of the UK's largest ad agencies and companies. He lives in London. For more information about the author visit www.rspateman.com or follow R.S. Pateman on Twitter @rspateman
I was very lucky to win a signed copy of The Second Life of Amy Archer from Novelkicks
Check out the brilliant trailer for the book