Four months ago, Rick went out to buy a newspaper and never came back.
His wife, Gina is struggling to deal with her loss, and her daughter's constant mood swings, when they receive a phone call from a woman at a small country hotel, confirming details of a booking Rick made before he vanished.
Desperate to find out more about his disappearance, they take the trip. But there is something very strange about the hotel, and the family that run it.
Soon Gina is unsure that Rick did make the booking - but one thing is clear, Gina and her daughter are in serious danger.
In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes was published by Century on 5 May 2016. I really enjoy Samantha Hayes' writing, my review of her last novel, You Belong to Me was published on Random Things in March 2015.
In Too Deep is one of those books that the reader is really loathe to put down, the urge to read 'just one more chapter' is there, all the way through. The story is fast-paced, unpredictable and leaves the reader reeling from the hurtling journey that this very clever author takes us on.
Rick has been missing for four months. He left the house to walk to the corner shop and buy a newspaper. It was an ordinary morning, he didn't take his phone, or the dog, he wasn't going to be out long enough to even bother to get the dog's lead. But he didn't return.
His wife Gina is struggling. The police investigation seems to have been scaled down, and despite their initial help and support, it's clear that the officers on the case can do very little more. Rick and Gina's daughter Hannah is also struggling, but she's keeping her innermost thoughts to herself. She hasn't shared any of her worries with her mother, how can she add to Gina's pain?
On the surface, Rick and Gina were the perfect couple. They had endured the tragedy of losing their young son Jacob in a hit and run accident. The driver of the car who killed Jacob was never found, and their lives were ripped apart by their loss.
But they stayed together, they loved each other, they
Daughter Hannah returned unexpectedly from her first term at University just a couple of days before Rick disappeared. Unusually quiet, her parents assumed that a boy was involved and were determined not to interfere, she would talk when she wanted to.
And then, suddenly, Gina and Hannah are the only ones left. When Gina finds out that Rick had arranged a surprise trip to a luxury hotel to celebrate their anniversary, she decides that she and Hannah will take the break together.
Once at the hotel, things begin to take on a sinister note, and Samantha Hayes's skill in creating suspense and unease is at its very best. Gina and Hannah's characters are expanded, the reader learns more about the truth behind the brave faces, becoming privy to their innermost thoughts and fears. All the while, the reader can think about the explosive prologue to this story. We know that Rick was followed by a mystery woman on the morning that he disappeared and these few paragraphs at the beginning of the story add so much the telling of the story, but also completely mess with the mind as the reader. I really thought that I'd sussed this one very early in the story. How wrong can you be? Be prepared to expect the unexpected, be prepared to swear when you are taken down yet another path only for another twist to be exposed, turning the story completely upside down.
In Too Deep is thrilling and shocking. The characters are exquisite and the suspense is breathtaking. I was absolutely gripped by this book, and the ending, oh the ending ......
This is ..... My Life in Books by Samantha Hayes
When Anne asked me to pick some standout books that I've read throughout my life, I freaked! How could I pick just a handful? Books have meant so much to me for so many different reasons over the years that singling out a few was very tricky.
So this is by no means an exhaustive list of my favourites, but rather books that have stood out to me at a particular time and for a certain reason or memory.
Secret Seven Books by Enid Blyton I had quite an 'unusual' childhood filled with bizarre extremes, but the one constant in life for me was books. Whatever happened, I could always lose myself in someone else's story. And I didn't care if I'd read it a dozen times before, which is what happened with all the Secret Seven books as I galloped through them. I remember my heart thumping at a chapter called 'A Face at the Window' with the rain lashing against our caravan in Cornwall as I read during a wet holiday. It wasn't the first time I'd been scared in my life, but there was something frightening and exhilarating about a story implanting itself inside my head. Something dangerous and private.
Narnia Books by CS Lewis When I was about then, I remember being really poorly with 'flu that wouldn't go away. The bedridden weeks seemed endless. My parents were divorced and I recall my dad dropping off the complete set of Narnia books as a gift for me. He wasn't allowed inside to see me, but the books were a lovely surprise. I remember feeling instantly cheered and enthralled as I began to read. It wasn't long before I felt much better and re-read them many times over the years. They were a medicine.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott My grandmother gave me this book when I was about twelve and basically I wanted to be the character Jo March. She was everything I dreamed of being (yet wasn't) - sparky, outspoken, an adventurer, a tomboy and she had aspirations (like me) to become a writer. How I idolised Jo March and her life, which was so very far removed from my own. But the book added delicious layers of hope and fantasy to my early teens and I read it over and over, each time hoping that a little bit more of Jo was rubbing off on me.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach Such a defining book for me as it rubber-stamped my desire to write for a living. Aged thirteen, my teacher presented the class with this book. She described it and got us to write our version of the opening paragraph. Fifteen minutes later we handed in our work and the teacher sifted through them. She went a little pale, looked at me, re-read what I'd written and then read it out to the class. Then she read out the real opening of the book. They were so similar she thought I must have read it before, but I hadn't. She gave me a good mark and I took it to be a 'sign' that I should be a writer (even though it was just coincidence).
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte I loved and hated this book! Loved because of the drama, the misery, the hope, the passion - and perhaps it sowed the seed for the 'domestic dramas' and thriller I now write. It has everything, from love, tortured characters, abuse, hope and satisfaction - though at a price. And hated because when we read the book at my all-girls school, our English lesson always came right after swimming and there was never enough time to change or get dry properly. Add to this that the lessons were held in a cold, dark, dingy and windowless basement, it sapped some of the joy from reading as my long wet hair dripped down my back. But perhaps this situation added a cruelly appropriate dimension to the experience.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson I read this book when I was in my thirties and recall walking about with the book in one hand and pushing a vacuum, carrying a child or humping a laundry bundle in the other. What struck me in particular was the honesty of the writing, the no-nonsense down-to-earth prose that effortlessly exuded poetry to me. I was attempting my own novel at the time and, while mine wasn't outright autobiographical, it did contain elements of truth, experience and unconscious 'stuff' (and is thankfully now long out of print!). And while I was swerving and struggling with my book and how best to convey what I wanted to say, in 'Oranges' Jeanette had splashed it out on the page with startling clarity. It gave me verve and confidence to say what I wanted to, and I quickly devoured much of her other work.
Anything by Anne Tyler Anne Tyler hasn't, as far as I know, written a book called 'Anything' - but rather I read anything by her to get me through a lonely, sedentary and rather low period of my life back in the late 90s. I was living in the USA and pregnant for the most part and unable to work because my visa didn't allow it. I was the huge, rather useless wife tagging along for a career move and when my other two children were at school, I read and wrote and slept. And I got larger and larger. So thank you, Anne, for your beautiful words, your magical stories and effortless description. You helped nourish me. And then I had my baby and all was well and I immediately moved back home.
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland I went through a phase of reading a few of Douglas Coupland's books. Completely addictive, completely bonkers and a good alternative to taking drugs. Not much more to say other than everyone should read at least one of his books, and I'd recommend this trippy tale, especially with The Smiths track of the same name playing along. Good times!
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold I don't often cry at books (yeah, I'm hard!), but this one got to me. Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon is dead yet she narrates the story from heaven, watching her family grieve for her. I'd got kids of a similar age at the time so this story particularly stuck in my throat. I adored the simple, childish yet poignant prose, the magical storytelling, the sense of acceptance by Susie as she watches her family fall apart. I read it around the time I began writing thrillers and it had a big influence on me, especially when it came to constructing points of view in a novel. This must be up there with most original.
Room by Emma Donoghue Having recently watched the movie (though I read the book when it first came out) I think this must be one of my all time favourites. I nearly didn't read it because of a few people saying it was a 'hard work' read as it's told from the point of view of a young child - language and all. But this was its beauty, this was how the author laid bare the horror of what had happened to mother and son in this unique story. These days, I don't generally read books more than once but I would with this. And it took me back to my childhood (no, I wasn't locked up in a room) but as a kid I made notes of all the stories I would write when I was a grown up and the 'locked away' tale was one of them.
Samantha Hayes - May 2016
Samantha Hayes grew up in the West Midlands, left school at sixteen, avoided university and took jobs ranging from being a private detective to barmaid to fruit picker and factory worker. She lived on a kibbutz, and spent time in Australia and the USA, before finally becoming a crime-writer.
Her writing career began she was won a short story competition in 2003. Her novels are family-based psychological thrillers, with the emphasis being on 'real life fiction'. She focuses on current issues, and when she writes, she sets out to make her reader ask, 'What if this happened to me or my family?' With three children of her own, Samantha is well-versed to talk about how the aftershocks of crime impact upon families and communities.
To find out more visit her website www.samhayes.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @samhayes