Recently, there was a drama on Channel 4 starring David Tennant called Deadwater. I was really excited about it because, you know, David Tennant but I only ended up watching the first episode. It just didn’t grip me but that’s okay. The reason that I bring it up is that I read a review about it that revealed a big plot twist. The review talked about how great and unexpected it was. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The twist was so obvious that you could tell from the trailer. It’s infuriating. Am I seeing something different from other people? Or are they just unwilling to see what’s right in front of their face? Maybe I’m just too cynical to take anything at face value? I don’t know but what I do know is that psychological thrillers never surprise me these days. Just look back at all my book reviews for this genre and you’ll see the phrase “painfully obvious” crop up plenty of times. I just don’t think anyone has any original ideas anymore. All psychological thrillers try and do is be darker and sexier than the last one. And, though I’m happy for those things to exist in a book, they shouldn’t be the only reason for a novel’s existence. There is no substance in novels like that. It’s just a writer trying to shock but not being good enough to hide their intentions. It makes me angry to see so many shit books being published and then praised by so many people. Of course, I also never learn and continually get drawn into them. Most recently with this one.
I’ve never believed in the adage “never judge a book by its cover”. I regularly judge books by their cover and it’s normally fine. Cover art is usually a reliable indication of the kind of book you’re going to be reading. Although, I would accept it if the sentence actually read “never judge a psychological thriller by its cover”. I couldn’t resist buying this book once I’d seen it. It drew me in and I knew that I had to give it a go. I should have known better. I did know better. I posted a photo of this book on Instagram a few weeks ago and predicted that I would feel let down by it. Not only was I let down but I was offended that this was recommended by anyone.
The novel tells the story of a barrister, Alison, as she works through her latest big case. It’s a murder involving a woman who brutally killed her husband. As well as trying to figure out the truth of the case, Alison has plenty of problems in her personal life. She drinks too much, neglects her daughter, fights with her husband, and is having an affair with a colleague. As she tries to become a better woman, Alison finds that it won’t be as easy as she thinks. When the threatening text messages start, she begins to feel as though her whole existence is unravelling before her very eyes. Who is sending the messages and can Alison stop them telling her husband?
I predicted the outcome of this novel at the start of the second chapter. It was so obvious what Harriet Tyce was doing because she never did anything to hide her intentions. I know there’s such a thing as hiding in plain sight but this is just clumsy and badly written. I guess somebody believed an abundance of awful scenes describing rough sex and drinking would be enough to distract readers from what was staring them in the face. Not only are the three twists in this book super obvious but they’re also overused. They’re the kind of twists we’ve seen in plenty of other books and plenty of films and TV shows. There’s a real lack of thought and originality here.
To give Tyce her credit, the scenes revolving around the law profession are realistic thanks to her background. It’s just the literary elements that don’t work. The dialogue doesn’t feel real and the narration is just awkward. There are moments where there are gaps in the narrative for no reason only for them to be filled in later. Rather than hiding the truth behind her writing, Tyce just takes out what she doesn’t want you to know until the correct time. It interrupts the flow and makes everything feel really clunky. The constant repetition has a similar effect. There really isn’t a lot to this novel. It’s just that certain scenes keep being played out again and again. We spend an awful lot of time watching her drink and have sex. Oh, and all of the unnecessary detail that keeps cropping up. You can tell how much a writer is struggling to fill a book by the number of insignificant details you’re forced to take notice of.
No matter how hard Blood Orange tries to convince us otherwise with it’s verging on rapey sex scenes, it’s a boring story. The twists at the end are uninspiring and incredibly obvious. None of the attempts to cover them up actually work. They’re also really stupid. The ending of this novel is laughably bad. Not only that but the story itself isn’t interesting. There’s nothing to it. The characters are all terribly written and have no depth. They don’t talk like real people. They don’t interact like real people. This book wasn’t written for any other reason than to push the boundaries of good taste. The only problem is, it’s not even that shocking or risque. I’m not averse to a bit of trash but this is the trash for trash’s sake. Trash for repressed housewives. It’s bad. Just another forgettable and dull thriller that doesn’t thrill on any level.