Hi guys! Today I am incredibly excited to welcome you to an epic blog tour for T.A. Cotterell’s debut novel, “What Alice Knew”. This complex and full of questions thriller is published on 1st December as an e-book and in spring next year as a paperback. I was incredibly intrigued by this book, the story had me hooked and it was so controversial and I truly wanted to know why the author has chosen such topic – this is why I asked him to tell us about the inspiration for “What Alice Knew”.
What Alice Knew by T.A. Cotterell
Publisher: Black Swan
Publishing Date: 1st December 2016 (e-book) / 20th April 2017 (Paperback)
Source: Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: Crime, Thrillers & Mystery
Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.
Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?
Sometimes it’s better not to know.
“What Alice Knew” is for sure a book with the wow – effect. It is controversial and it truly touches upon difficult issues and decisions to be made and really I didn’t know in what direction the author is going to continue with the story, what is he going to choose, true or lies. I personally was all the time wondering what I’d do in such situation. Nevertheless, I think that no matter what the decision, there wasn’t one that would be good for the characters.
Alice and Ed Sheahan have the perfect life – she is a popular painter, he is a very respected obstetrician. They have two great kids and a beautiful house. But then, one night, Ed goes missing and after that their lives take a very different turn. Alice and Ed must ask themselves, how far would they go to protect their family?
Please, don’t be fooled that it’s a book about a wife trying to save her marriage and her husband’s reputation, because there is much, much more to this story!
This is a very complex story following many themes, however it is very easy to keep on track. It is full of tension, questions, secrets and lies and it made me think, not only about THE question, but also about its controversy, morals, ethics and my own safety. It actually made me question everything I read about. I personally was absolutely taken by surprise with the way the plot took on, especially after reading in the synopsis that Ed went missing, and I was expecting a totally different tale about searching for him. But this what I got has absolutely lived up to my expectations and the novel had me glued to the pages, as I couldn’t wait to see how it’s going to end. In fact I was incredibly tempted to just look at the last page and see the end and it cost me a lot of willpower not to do it. So maybe it is the fact that I was waiting for a very spectacular finish, with fireworks or unbelievable turn, made me feel so little confused when I finished reading, not knowing what to think. Because – and here is my personal “but” – the ending. It disappointed me to be honest and I’m not sure if it’s because it was such a big surprise that I didn’t see coming or because it is the one that I was not happy with. I also know that making Alice a painter was author’s cognizant decision but for me the passages about art, as much as they were probably significant to the plot, were not working for me – they were dragging me away from the story and they were just too much for me. I know. I should be more sophisticated. But even though the passages about art were not so much my cup of tea, I still appreciated them and I think there was something lyrical, nostalgic in them, and there were moments that the sudden change from art to real life was like a jump into cold water, so cooling and shocking it was, first the softness, beauty and in the next second the brutal reality. The writing style was one of the strongest points of this book and I had a feeling that the author really knows what he’s writing about – it was rich, very intelligent, eloquent, taking many points of view into consideration. I also had a feeling that the story is much too chopped, as if the author just lost his thought or didn’t know how to connect the events – all extremely well written but there was something missing. There was a lot of inner monologues and will he/will she, though I still must admit that the story never felt flat.
Personally I couldn’t stand Ed. He was too smug, to self – confident for my liking, but to be honest, Alice also annoyed me incredibly, and I had a feeling that she’s very uncertain and that even though she’s a very talented painter she doesn’t believe in her own talent, and it truly, madly made me angry.
The author has really done a great job with pulling wool over our eyes and presenting some possibilities and I think that we, as readers, could never be sure how the story is going to end. I think it is such compelling and gripping read because it makes you wonder what you’d do in such situation and how hard it’s to deal with truth sometimes. I think that nowadays, when so many psychological thrillers are written, it is a hard job for a book to stand out of the crowd but I also think that “What Alice Knew” doesn’t need to be afraid. It is a thriller with a difference, with a unique look and there is suspense and it’s a pretty good read. Yes, the book had me hooked and I was incredibly intrigued and I am already waiting for T.A. Cotterell’s next book – “What Alice Knew” was truly great debut. Recommended for all who are in a need of a very tense, not obvious read.
My original plan was to write a thriller in which the reader’s sympathy, by virtue of point of view, was with the ‘criminal’. Clearly it was therefore impossible to write a ‘whodunnit?’ This led naturally to a ‘whydunnit?’ and ‘will they get away with it?’. As a father of smallish children – small when I started writing anyway! – I was also conscious of the place of truth in family life. What is the parent-child contract? How much does a parent owe it to a child to tell him/her the truth? When should they tell them, if at all?
Being a parent, one is conscious the worst possible thing would be to be separated from your children while they are at an age where they still need you. It struck me therefore that if a father committed an act which, if found out, would separate him from his family, he would have every incentive to cover it up. If he told his wife, or his wife found out, they would have a secret that bound them together, for good and bad. As the bindings of the secret became tighter it seemed to me, there was a danger they could strangle or suffocate one partner. If that was the case then issues of intra-family honesty and truth would be forced into the open. It was these inter-related issues that led me to the plot of ‘What Alice Knew’.
As you rightly note, it was not an easy theme to pull together. I originally wrote and finished the novel in the third person but then I realised it was Alice’s story and needed to be narrated by her. In the first version she was a GP, but as I knew nothing about GPs this added little to the story. Making her a portrait painter opened up the whole book. Suddenly I was able to play with ideas of truth in art and life, light and darkness, the idea of being in the spotlight with nowhere to hide. This lent itself to the weather patterns, with the pre-confession gloomy skies giving way to the burning heat of summer, the sun reaching into every corner wherever Alice is seeking to hide in the darkness or behind the easel – most notably in Marianne’s glass-walled house when she, the hunter, becomes the ‘prey’. Her job/vocation also allowed some tangential symbolism into the book – much as a still life painter picks symbolic objects such as a lemon to symbolise bitter-sweetness, so her still life, ‘Peach, Knife, Dead Rose’ represented Alice, Ed & Araminta.
What I particularly liked about the story as it came together was the possibility it gave me to write a page-turner (I hope!) which, unlike most thrillers, not only turns on a character and her ideas rather than a smoking gun, but one which, at the end becomes almost more of a character study than a straight thriller. It was as if I, and hopefully the reader, had had their cake and eaten it!
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