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How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller

By Swirl and Thread

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‘Zara thought she was doing the right thing
Lauren wants to protect her daughter at all costs
Zara witnessed a terrible crime
Lauren will give up everything to keep her safe
Lauren doesn’t know what Zara is hiding’

How to Disappear is the latest release from Gillian McAllister. Published with Michael Joseph, it is described as ‘gripping new psychological suspense’ and is a witness protection thriller.

Gillian McAllister uses an oft used court ruling as the focus of her novel. The Osman Warning, which got its name following a 1998 legal case, is issued to people by the police when an individual’s life is in danger. It is a warning of a death threat or endangerment to life. When the police do not have sufficient evidence to prosecute the potential perpetrator of a murderous or violent act, they can warn the potential victim to make the appropriate changes to their lifestyles in order to protect them against harm.

How to Disappear focuses on Lauren and her daughter Zara. Fourteen years of age and Zara is witness to a murder in a local park of a homeless man by two teenage boys. Zara has volunteered with the homeless and is outraged by this attack. She passes all that she saw that fateful evening to the police. Arrests are made and now the case is due in court. Zara’s identity as a minor has remained anonymous but behind the curtain in court, Zara’s testimony comes under closer scrutiny by the defence and she falters. The court is in uproar and the defendants are released but Zara’s life is to be changed unalterably.

Social Media is a toxic device and it’s not long before Zara’s identity is leaked. The trolls are out in force and suddenly Zara’s life is threatened. Online hashtags go viral and Lauren really fears for the safety of Zara and the life they now have.

Aidan, Lauren’s husband, and Zara’s step-father is angered and frustrated by the vitriol shown to his step-daughter and cannot comprehend the steps that are being recommended them by the local police force. Witness protection, new names, a new beginning. How can this work? How can their lives have changed so much? Why are they being targeted with such hate?

Lauren will do anything for Zara but what is being asked is incomprehensible and Lauren is struggling to cope with this apparently singular solution to their problem. To protect their lives, Lauren and Zara have to sacrifice everything and leave everyone behind. Aidan is left with the difficult choice of joining his wife and step-daughter or remaining with his other daughter, Poppy and his mother. Very tough decisions to be made all because Zara thought she was doing the right thing, that justice was to served no matter the real truth.

The idea for How to Disappear is a very unique one. I had never heard of Osman’s warning so I did have to do a little research, which is always something I like when reading a book. Unfortunately though, the characters frustrated me, the plot felt a little too far-fetched and I just could not connect to any part of the tale. Zara was a stroppy teenager who seemed to have absolutely no concept of the impact her actions were having. Lauren’s character just frustrated me from the get-go. Aidan’s activities were just too unbelievable for me to accept. I thought the police representative on the witness protection program wasn’t very convincing and it just felt that their whole case was handled way too quickly.

It’s very clear that Gillian McAllister can write and, as a bestselling author, her popularity as a writer is very evident but How to Disappear just fell flat for me. There are most definitely tense, heart-pumping scenes with a very unexpected and shocking ending and the theme running through the book is very interesting. What would you do if you and your family’s life was in danger? How far would you run? How far would you be prepared to go?

How to Disappear is a book that has garnered huge praise with author Rosamund Lupton stating that ‘if Jodi Picoult wrote psychological thrillers, they would look like this. A compulsive read with a jaw-dropping twist, I read it in a day’ .It may be it just was not the right fit for me at the moment. Lots of five-star reviews for this one so please do let me know if you have read it and what you thought.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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