The Back Road by Rachel Abbott has been one of the most up and down relationships I've had with a book in a long while. A young girl, Abbie, is left for dead on the side of a road that no one uses except the villagers in Little Melham. The news of her being in a coma after someone strikes her in a vehicle places a group of friends on edge who all have their own secrets they need to keep.
Rachel Abbott grips readers from page one with the Prelude that includes two young girls in a closet trying not to make a sound as The Grunter and The Moaner do their business. An attention to detail and intensity had me assuming I was in for a nail biting thriller. Sadly it changed courses when Abbott introduces a group of friends who may, or may not, have had something to do with the abduction and subsequent accident.
The main characters in The Back Road are Leo and Ellie. Leo is a life coach who is on a journey to overcome her past by visiting her half-sister Ellie. Ellie, a nurse, lives in their childhood home, and the place of her sister's tormentor. She's taken by surprise when Leo finally comes to see the newly remodeled home. Leo is happy there are no traces of old memories and settles down to enjoy her sister and also battle her own demons. All hopes of having a quiet holiday cease once the dinner from hell happens.
Ellie and Leo are brilliantly described characters that I enjoyed getting to know. But as I said, I had a love/hate relationship with this book. There are a lot of subplots, twists, and hidden agendas with this novel. Normally this complexity is welcome when the cast is worth caring for. Ellie's friends are snooty, flighty, sinister, and withholding a lot of depth. Their chapters were better spent on giving more depth to Abbie, the victim, who's almost an after-thought most of the time.
What Rachel Abbott does right in The Back Road is what kept me NEEDING to see this through to the last page. Just when I think I know who the culprit is, there's another twist that makes just as much sense thrown into the fray. Although I had the most obvious abductor figured out, I needed closure for some of the other smaller plots that held so much weight for Ellie and Leo.
Ultimately, The Back Road is worth a read. Rachel Abbott has real writing chops and what it lacks in suspense or thrills it more than makes up for in complexity and the element of surprise. I recommend this novel to lovers of suspense set in the English countryside where you can never truly know who your neighbor is and the secrets they may be keeping. ***