I smell him first, or rather the aftershave he used to wear. A ’90s vintage scent – masculine and woody. I spin round, but no one’s there. . .
Then I see him, sprinting toward the sea, the furry flaps of his trapper hat flying in the breeze. . . Simon.
Who Did You Tell?, the second published novel from author, Leslie Kara, returns the reader to the British seaside village of Flinstead-on-Sea. Her first published novel, The Rumor, examined the dangers of malicious gossip.
Who Did You Tell? is the story of a struggling alcoholic recently released from rehab with nowhere to go but to move in with her mother. Mom has let her know that this is it – fail this time and you are truly on your own. Astrid hoped leaving her old life behind, telling no one where she was going, and moving to Flinstead where she is unknown, would provide the base from which to rebuild her life. A name change from Hiliary helps with anonymity.
To her credit, she dutifully, but reluctantly, attends weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Astrid is not ready to open her sordid story to these strangers. Long years of drugs and booze have left Astrid filled with paranoia and guilt leftover from hazy memories and big gaps of her life lost in long periods of blackouts. She has a very dark secret – she believes she is responsible for the death of her one true love, Simon. Simon and Astrid had a codependent relationship centered on getting high and socially unacceptable methods of funding their needs. After breaking up with Astrid, Simon entered rehab and began a sober life. A serendipitous meeting with Astrid found Simon falling off the wagon, and shortly after, committing suicide.
In time, still finding it difficult to curb the allure of alcohol to self-medicate, Astrid makes a good friend from AA, finds a new love interest, and begins to believe that she just might be on the road to a better life. Until. She begins to smell Simon’s uncommon aftershave in strange places and gets that eerie feeling that she is being watched.
“I don’t want to look over my shoulder because that feels like giving in to the fear. . . I force myself to turn round just long enough to see there’s no one there. . .”
She’s scared. . . For a second I think sensed me. She stops dead in her tracks and spins round. . . [I pretend.] My forefinger curls, then squeezes. The bullet hits it target. . . Not yet. The game’s only just begun.
Who Did You Tell? is a mixed tale. Addiction and its perpetual grip on lives and the importance of friendship and family in helping hold steady against the strong pull of addiction. A mysterious stalking stranger insidiously begins a campaign to destroy Astrid’s new life by first messing mentally with her mind before hoping to end it all with her tragic death. Astrid struggles with questions – What did I do? How was I found in Flinstead? Who did I tell?
The strongest theme, in my opinion, was Astrid’s battle with her demons. The mysterious stranger was effective at obfuscating the reason for stalking Astrid and was entertaining. Her romance and potential future with Josh wasn’t my favorite part of the book; didn’t feel right and possibly was included as a false flag as the potential stalker. I settled on rating the book at 4 stars because of the example of Astrid’s life as an addict. Enjoyed the book and look forward to any future fiction from this author.