I haven’t read Lesley Kara’s well-received 2018 release, The Rumour but I did enjoy Who Did You Tell, published in early 2020. Now I’ve read her latest book it’s obvious she’s drawn to themes reflecting hidden pasts and long-buried secrets.
The Dare is a twisty read that lures readers into a false sense of complacency before throwing our trust back in our faces. It has us questioning how well we (actually) know some of the lead characters.
by Lesley Kara
Published by Bantam Press
Genres: Psychological Thriller
When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together - and that only Lizzie will come back alive.
Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice's friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend's death.
Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?
This book unfolds in two(ish) timeframes. The present and then 2007, both before and after Lizzie’s best friend died.
It’s the death of another girl, also hit by a train, that brings Lizzie’s childhood memories to the fore. They’ve always been there and evidenced in the (kinda) small life she’s led but now a range of changes are conspiring to force her to confront the events of a dozen years earlier.
Lizzie’s recently engaged and left her childhood home for the first time. Not only has she moved house but she’s now meeting her fiance’s friends and colleagues for the first time.
I very much liked Lizzie. She can’t remember the details of Alice’s death, which—in some ways—makes it easier to put it behind her. If anything, her epilepsy has held her back in life as she’s been in constant fear of an attack.
She seems kinda naive though she’s in her mid 20s. She’s only known Ross for a short time and he’s about a decade older and in his 30s when they met. He seems devoted however and committed to keeping her happy and healthy.
Lizzie’s conscious of her lack of life experience and feels she’s allowed her epilepsy to define her. She’s finally ready to do more and not live her life in fear.
She gets a sense though when Ross mentions a work colleague and is out late that something isn’t right. But when she discovers she’s (unexpectedly) pregnant Ross is ecstatic and any fears are allayed.
It’s only now that Lizzie seems to have found happiness that someone from her past re-emerges and threatens it. Lizzie’s suspicious of their motives but eventually believes them when they say they’re keen to let the (proverbial) sleeping dogs snooze their heads off.
Of course, things and people are never as they seem and soon Lizzie learns she’s not the only one with secrets.
I didn’t pick some of the twists here. I mean, talk about the long game. Jaysus!
Kara puts us into a few people’s heads so we know long before Lizzie who she can and can’t trust. It also means we understand the motivation of everyone involved and how they feel about the past and present.
Kara times the big reveal and climax perfectly and I certainly felt a sense of closure.
However… I felt she perhaps overcomplicated things with another thread involving Lizzie, her family, Alice and Alice’s sister Catherine that we really didn’t need as it didn’t add anything to the central plot and—though important—felt irrelevant.
In addition, there were a couple of loose threads that made me wonder if I’d imagined them. The prologue featured a (childish) ritual burning of secrets and I wasn’t sure what that was about; and there was some sexual experimentation that wasn’t further explored.
That aside, this was an unpredictable and engaging read and one I’d certainly recommend.
The Dare by Lesley Kara was released by Bantam Press (Penguin UK) and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.