Dear Amy – Helen Callaghan

Helen Callaghan’s debut novel Dear Amy is pretty dang good. It seems like thrillers are a dime a dozen these days, but Callaghan’s story is well-written, and has some twists that readers might not see coming.

Margot Lewis teaches Classics at a prestigious high school in Cambridge, England. She’s a good teacher and she loves her job. In her spare time, she answers letters for The Cambridge Examiner, a sort of agony aunt deal. Her life is falling apart, though – her husband has left her and they are on the precipice of divorce.

One day Margot gets a letter from a girl named Bethan Avery begging for help. The letter claims that the writer is being held prisoner in a basement by a strange man who promises he will never let her go. At first Margot thinks it’s a prank, but the coincidence is too striking. Just a few weeks ago, Katie Browne, a girl who attends Margot’s school, though not one of her students, had gone missing. Margot takes the letter to the police, but they aren’t really interested. Bethan Avery is a real person, but she’d disappeared 20 years ago and the case had gone cold. It isn’t until a second letter turns up that the authorities start to take an interest; well, not the police exactly, but a man named Martin Forrester, a “senior criminologist in the Multi-Disciplinary Historical Analysis Team.” Leave it to the Brits to come up with a complicated way of describing cold cases.

Martin, he of the long hair and dreamy green eyes and bulging muscles, tells Margot that Bethan Avery is not the first girl from the area to have disappeared. Now, despite the twenty years separating Bethan’s disappearance from Katie’s, Martin believes that the two cases are linked, and that there may be others. Martin is suspicious of the letters Margot has received, but Margot is desperate to believe that Bethan is still out there and it may be possible to save her and, if the cases are indeed connected, Katie, too.

Although there were a few instances of “oh, no, you didn’t” in the novel, and although Margot is sometimes shrill and hysterical, I still really enjoyed this novel. Margot’s is not the only voice throughout. At the beginning, we meet Katie, who has just had another dust-up (as sixteen-year-olds are prone to) with her mother and step-father, and she has decided to slip out and head over to her father’s. That decision doesn’t end well. We also meet Chris, the creepy pedophile; the less time spent with him the better. There’s nothing graphic in the book, but let’s face it, our imaginations are more than equal to the task of knowing what Chris is up to.

In any case, if you like thrillers, this one is an enjoyable read.

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