Review: The Rose Petal Beach; Dorothy Koomson

“Is a story worth killing for?”- 4 stars

Source- Bought copy

Quercus- 2012

Kindle edition- 416 pages

The beautiful girly-looking cover suggests that this is a dreamy piece of romantic chicklit- but in actuality this is riveting fiction laced with secrets, lies, betrayal and murder.

I have read all of Koomson’s other novels and have admittedly enjoyed some more so than others. Her last book ‘The Woman He Loved Before’ seemed to depart from her more traditional brand of character-driven storytelling, becoming more sinister and gritty than previously, so with this one it’s safe to say that I was anticipating a read along a similar vein. Thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint in that respect- at all- talk about unputdownable reading!

What would you do if the person you loved was accused of a horrific crime? You would find your life turned upside down, undeniably. What if you knew and actually cared about the accuser? What if ultimately, you didn’t know who to believe? That is the grim reality of the situation that Tami unexpectedly finds herself in, and in coming to terms with that fact, she has to question whether you can truly ever know someone at all…

What appealed to me so much from the start of this novel was that each female character Koomson has created has a very distinctive ‘voice’ and she slips effortlessly inside their heads, recounting events from their different perspectives, so you feel every emotion they are going through and really get to know them and all of their distinctive traits. As a consequence you come away recognising the situation from different points of view and seeing how people react. The multiple perspectives are a great technique for casting aspersions on the characters- I was constantly questioning who was guilty of what (if any) crime with all of the little breadcrumbs that were subtly thrown to the reader. Very sneaky.

Sometimes flashbacks don’t always work and can become a bit trite or repetitive, but this wasn’t the case here, which is a good thing as there are a lot of flashbacks! Time jumps progressively back and forth so that you see how Scott and Tami met years earlier and how they were both outsiders in some respect and instantly related to one another. You come to understand the strength of their bond and the dependence between them, as well as witness how their relationship developed, which makes sense why Tami’s emotions are so inconsistent as she ultimately recognises the good man she fell in love with and cannot comprehend the actions he has supposedly been blamed for in the present day. On the other hand, we have briefer flashbacks to eighteen months previously and as to situations occurring that ultimately culminated in the event at the heart of this story and other significant causal factors that mean Tami begins to question the very nature of her marriage. Both types of flashback add a wealth of background information to the story and become more relevant as the narrative progresses. It leaves you wondering how people can change so much in seemingly such a short space of time, or whether or not you can really ever truly know someone at all, deep down.

A couple of aspects I wasn’t so keen on though: it did seem at points like a few too many dramas were chucked into the narrative, when my brain was still trying to catch up with some of the earlier ones. I also didn’t feel much of a connection to Fleur and found her to be quite frustrating as a character; particularly regarding her seemingly complete inability to stand up to her father and act like an adult. Thankfully though, Beatrix and Tami take centre stage more, both whom I found fascinating to learn about. I also found the ending a bit far-fetched for my tastes- there had been no indication that it would play out that way through any of the book so it felt like a bit of a bolt from the blue.

Overall though, this was still a fantastic, substantial read- filled with slowly unveiled secrets, pacey twists and turns, overwrought emotions and some dramatic cliff-hangers.  If you are a first time Koomson reader it is definitely worth your while checking this book out. I would also recommend it for fans of Emily Barr, Diane Chamberlain or Lesley Lokko.

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