Thursday 18 April 2019

What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross - Review

It's finally here! A huge happy publication day to MJ Cross for the brilliant What She Saw Last Night. To mark the occasion, and round up my wee focus on the book, I'm delighted to share my review of the book, together with the book information.

Elsewhere on the blog, you can find a guest post from the author, an edited extract, and a fab wee Q&A with Mason.

The Blurb:

No one will believe ... WHAT SHE SAW LAST NIGHT.

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin ... but there's no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don't believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn't the truth.

What She Saw Last Night is published today by Orion Publishing, and can be purchased from Waterstones and Amazon.

My Review:

I have long been a fan of MJ Cross, and his Carter Blake series which he wrote as Mason Cross. You can click through to read my reviews of The Killing Season and Presumed Dead, books 1 and 5 in the series. The others have all been read, but not yet reviewed. In fact, it was an appearance of his at Bloody Scotland, and my subsequent reading of The Killing Season and The Samaritan that reignited my passion for books, and particularly crime and psychological thrillers. So a big thank you to Mason - don't think I've ever told him that

So I was excited, and a little bit nervous, to hear he was going to be writing a standalone book, far away from the world of Carter Blake, and set back in the UK. I needn't have worried. What She Saw Last Night is very different from the Blake books, but just as good.

Jenny Bowen is travelling back to Scotland from London on the Caledonian Sleeper, following the recent death of her father. Waking in the night to use the bathroom, she finds the young woman two compartments along lying dead, but can't see the little girl who had been with her when Jenny boarded. It turns out there is no record or CCTV coverage of the little girl, who just seemed to have vanished into thin air. Neither the railway staff nor the police believe Jenny, and think she must be mistaken.

She tries to believe them, tries to forget about the little girl and get on with things in Scotland. But she can't. Just can't. She has to know what happened. So, with very little information, she begins to investigate on her own. But it turns out that she might have an ally in the police after all. Which might just come in handy...

Jenny is brilliant. She's just an ordinary woman who ends up in an extraordinary position. It could be you or I. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that since I read this. What would I have done in Jenny's position? Would I have chased after the truth? I'd like to think so, but I'm really not sure... But Jenny is determined, tenacious and thorough. Brave too. She's a great protagonist, and beautifully written.

From the other key players, Mike Fletcher deserves a mention. A straight up, dependable guy with a nightmare of a boss, he can sense when something's not quite right. And Klenmore is an enigma that we know little about. Both are well written characters, as are all of the cast.

Scene setting is, of course, very important, and Cross does it very well. He has clearly researched the Caledonian Sleeper and it was easy to picture in my mind. As was the busyness of London (a place I don't know well) and the isolation of the house up in Inverkiln.

The book is beautifully paced. It's a bit like riding a train, which sets off at a steady rate, before speeding up and hurtling towards it's final destination. Well, not quite like that, but I'm trying to stick with the train thing! Certainly the ending is full of tension and action, but there are also a couple of heart stopping moments along the way, as Jenny's questions open up a whole can of worms.

So, What She Saw Last Night isn't necessarily action filled in a traditional way, ie. guns blazing, doors being kicked in, etc, there is plenty going on, and I raced through it in a day. It's a character driven thriller, with a hugely believable and relatable protagonist and strong supporting players. An unusual and cracking story line. An absolute winner from MJ Cross (who will always be Mason to me, I'm afraid)! And it needs to be made into a movie!.

The Author:

MJ Cross is a British novelist. Writing as Mason Cross his debut novel The Killing Season was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2015. His second novel, The Samaritan, also featuring his inimitable lead character Carter Blake, was selected as a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. Mason has written a number of short stories, including A Living, which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads 'Get Britain Reading' Award and 'Expiry Date', published in Ellery Queen. He lives near Glasgow with his wife and three children.

Mason’s most recent Carter Blake novel, Presumed Dead, was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize 2018.

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  1. Great review Suze. Sounds a really enthralling read.

    1. Thanks Calum. It really is. He's one of my favourite authors. Have a look at his Carter Blake series, which he writes as Mason Cross. x


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