I feel I should note I edited this after my initial review, because the more I thought about it…
1956. Fifteen-year-old Betty Broadbent has never left the Cornish fishing village of St Steele or ventured far beyond the walls of the boarding house run by her erratic mother. But when the London press descends to report on a series of gruesome murders, Betty’s world changes. She’s transfixed by aloof reporter, Mr Gallagher. As the death toll rises, an unlikely friendship blossoms between them. But as their bond deepens, they find themselves entangled with the murders and each has to make a choice that will impact both them, and an innocent man.
On one hand, The Unforgotten is thrilling. There’s a string of murders, a mystery around the Cornish Cleaver – who is he? Why is he murdering young women? What’s going on? On the other, the lives of those who happened to cross paths at the right (or wrong) time take the fore. You almost forget about the mystery. Almost.
The time jumps between the past and present day are enough to dangle that little nugget to keep you interested, but it can wain in the middle from time to time. Credit where it’s due, that last tenth or so was whizzed through as the mystery started to unfurl. From the murderer, to the impact on their romance, it’s a pleasing ending in one sense, and kind of devastating on the other.
It’s a book that for a few days I thought wasn’t for me. I wondered too much about the mystery, looking for intricate details; when I didn’t get that I felt disappointed. But the more time I spent away from the book, yapping quite a lot about that ending, both in terms of the mystery, and the romance, I found myself going: that is a good book. It’s a story that hooked me on two levels, one without really realising it.
To step away from a mystery and have two people whose lives just happened to cross the time and place of this murder, to see how they come together and move on over the years, it’s actually unbelievably pleasing. Piecing a murder together bit by bit? Pffft, been there, done that, came to several wrong conclusions, bought the T-shirt.
The Unforgotten is unforgettable. It’s one that I imagine many will click with immediately, but many others, like me, will find themselves thinking about it long after that last page, finding more and more about it to enjoy (and I likely won’t shut up about the ending any time soon).
March 2016 | Freight Books