By Julia Stone
- The Accident
Author: Julia Stone
Publisher: Orion Dash
- ISBN: 9781398707801
- Published: October 2022
- Pages: 307
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 16/03/2023
- Language: English
Do you trust this reviewer? Am I all that I appear? I claim to work for one of the longest running review sites on the internet, but is any of it true? You cannot always trust a protagonist; we may have an ulterior motive that you are unaware of. Perhaps I am a fantasist who latches themselves on to the people I meet. At first, I just want to be their friend, but as my lies gather pace, the tone darkens. Welcome to the world of Julia Stone’s The Accident, a book all about your new friend who is too good to be true.
The book opens with a body freshly driven through the windscreen of Janice Thomason’s car. A young woman has fallen to her death and Janice cannot stop thinking about her. The police have no leads and are treating the case as a Jane Doe. Janice realises that her skills as a genealogy researcher may help. Her amateur sleuthing soon uncovers who the dead girl is. At this point most of us would hand our evidence over to the police and move on, but there is something a little dark about Janice, a pattern of obsessive behaviour that her mother always warned her about.
Accident is an unusual and unsettling novel and that is why I loved it. It starts off with an accident and then falls into a crime novel pattern. In this case the amateur sleuth is Janice who traces family trees for a living. She is used to finding people and skeletons in closets. It makes sense that this protagonist would have the skills required to solve a case, but things start to feel a little off. Stone does a delightful job of slow dripping the elements that are wrong about Janice. The reader starts to think that Janice’s over involvement is a little unrealistic, but then the hidden part of the story begins to unfold.
This is a novel about a death, be it accidental or misadventure, but it more about Janice and her obsessions. Her obsessions with people, with a life not lived. Suddenly the dead girl become alive in her eyes. The girl is Sunny. Not just a girl, but an acquittance, a friend, a family member, a daughter. When Janice lies to herself it is sad, but not too harmful, it is when she starts to believe her fantasies and tell them to others that life becomes complicated.
What makes Janice such an intriguing character is that she knows that she is a fantasist. She is aware of her habits and has attempted in the past to avoid the triggers that cause an episode. The problem is that she is good at it – meticulous in detail, able to think on her feet. But do the ends justify the means? Is it ok to lie and manipulate if it is to get to the truth?
The pacing of Accident is exceptional. Stone treats the reader like the lobster in the pot, you don’t know what type of novel you are submerged in until the water is too hot to escape. I really enjoyed the moment that I worked out that the world of Janice was not what it seemed. Accident is a compelling novel about a mundane life that is far stranger and darker than you would first imagine.
Written on 16th March 2023 by Sam Tyler .