Verity by Colleen Hoover - book review

Book review: ‘Verity’ by Colleen Hoover – a sinister thriller exploring the twisted mind of a writer ★★★★

Verity is an accomplished writer – at least she was. Lowen is a struggling writer facing eviction – at least until the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself.

Verity is involved in a tragic accident that leaves her unable to complete her crime-thriller series, and her husband Jeremy believes that what Verity would have wanted is for another writer to take on the task. That writer happens to be Lowen. And the only practical solution – given the enormous stacks of notes Verity wrote before her accident – is for Lowen to come to the family home and wade through Verity’s office by hand.

While she’s there, she discovers another manuscript. One that paints the picture-perfect family that Verity and Jeremy have built in a rather different light. And the more Lowen reads, the more disturbed she becomes. She starts seeing things, like Verity – ostensibly non-communicative and unable to move independently – moving around the house, talking to her young son and locking doors that were previously open…

“Some families are lucky enough to never experience a single tragedy. But then there are those families that seem to have tragedies waiting on the back burner. What can go wrong, goes wrong. And then gets worse.”

It’s a unputdownable thriller – Colleen Hoover constructs a claustrophobic, menacing setting and a tightly-wound plot. Something is clearly very, very wrong in that house – but who is the villain, and what really happened to Verity’s two young daughters?

“This is the point when other authors would paint themselves in a better light, rather than throw themselves into an X-ray machine. But there is no light where we’re going. This is your final warning.”

I learnt that Colleen Hoover is best known for her romance writing, and she tries to put that to good use here – there were a lot of sex scenes and a central romance that develops throughout the narrative, but not really enough character development for it to be a plausible relationship. I think the novel would have been stronger if Hoover hadn’t been trying to work a romance into a thriller.

Genre-blending pitfalls aside, I really enjoyed Verity. It is propulsive and creepy, and very easy to devour in a few sittings. I like the alternation between passages from Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s present-day reality, working in tandem to ramp up the tension until the final few scenes.

In a final twist, the real story is left up for grabs – it’s up to the reader to decide on the truth. In some stories it might be frustrating, but here it’s a clever and satisfying denoument.

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