Accidents Happen Paperback – 11 Apr 2013
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Praise for Louise Millar
‘Millar is a genius at capturing the complicated emotions of parenthood, and her taut, suspenseful plot makes this an unputdownable read’ Marie Claire
‘Like the best thrillers, it is quietly creepy and expertly crafted. Add it to your book club reading list now' Stylist
'A well-paced psychological thriller with more than a hint of Minette Walters about it' Sunday Express
'A thought provoking, taut and suspenseful thriller that you won't forget in a hurry' Easy Living
‘Creeping paranoia, nail-biting tension and fiendishly clever plotting . . . I couldn't put this down’ Lucy Diamond
‘Taut, chilling, utterly brilliant; my thriller of the year’ Lisa Jewell
‘There is nothing more chilling than feeling comfortable about a situation only to realise that your trust has been dangerously misplaced . . . a genuinely brilliant book’ Elizabeth Haynes
‘Some great twists and turns. One of my favourite books of 2012’ Mark Edwards
‘Possibly my favourite book of the year!’ Louise Voss
'I started reading and couldn't stop . . . a must-read that will tap into every mother's primal fears' Sophie Hannah
What if the one in a million is you?See all Product description
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The protagonist of Accidents Happen is Kate, an affluent middle-class widow who, after losing first her parents and then her husband in tragic circumstances, has been left convinced that she is 'cursed' and suffering from an anxiety disorder somewhere on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, constantly running through statistics and probability sums in her head in order to reduce the risk inherent in everything she or her 10-year-old son Jack does. As her anxiety spirals so far out of control that her wealthy in-laws are concerned for Jack's welfare, Kate meets Jago, a professor of maths who has recently published a book about risk in the 'popular science' genre. Jago is certain he can help Kate to overcome her problems with a sort of immersion therapy, encouraging her to carry out what amount to grown-up dares to re-accustom herself to minor risk-taking, and his approach seems to be working. Yet Kate still has a nagging doubt that someone or something may be gaining access to her house, and Jack seems to share the same fear. Are they so consumed by Kate's neuroses that they are seeing dangers where none exist? Or could this be the one and only time when Kate and Jack really are in danger?
The basic premise of Accidents Happen is an original one, and one that captured my attention right from the start. I could easily see that Kate's problem was entirely credible, given her history, and found her an easy character with whom to sympathise as she tries to do the best for her son in parallel with the well-meant but sometimes stifling input of her late husband's family. Jack, too, is wholly believable: at almost eleven, he's just at the age where a desire for more independence sometimes conflicts with day-to-day childhood doubts over outdoor sleepovers and walks down creepy country lanes.
Louise Millar withholds various snippets of information from us throughout the book to keep us turning the pages, revealing something significant every few chapters to keep up our interest and raise our suspicions. Accidents Happen is full of secrets and unspoken family tensions and as such, it's certainly a suspense-packed read. Where I think it falls down is in the characterisation of Jago, who is supposed to be a sufficiently likeable charmer to set Kate's heart fluttering for the first time after her husband's death, but merely came across to me as an insufferably smug pillock from whom any sensible woman would have walked away on date one, and in the ending, which I simply found so implausible as to be almost disappointing. I can't deny that it's been very cleverly worked out, but I just found it impossible to believe and executed at a pace that seemed rushed. I could have accepted how terribly unlikely it all was if it had been revealed more gradually, but having it all thrown at me within such a short space of time did give me, to quote Through The Looking Glass, the sensation of 'believing six impossible things before breakfast'.
Accidents Happen (again, rather like Before I Go To Sleep) is a book that benefits from a certain disengagement of one's brain when you read it. Try to forget that none of this would happen in a million years, and just sit back and enjoy it.
You have 55% chance of dying if you are hit by a car at 30 miles per hour.
40% of catering staff do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.
Kate knows the statistics for everything and this is preventing her and Jack leading normal, everyday lives. By trying to protect Jack, she's harming him. Jack is an unhappy little boy, gentle and sensitive, he hates the way that his mother pretends to be carefree, he can see in her eyes that she is faking it.
Hugo's family are at the end of the line with Kate, they are grieving too but they cannot bear to see how unhappy she is making little Jack. The battle lines are drawn and Kate really has to prove to them that she is a good mother.
When Kate meets Jago, a Scottish University professor by chance one day, she is amazed to find that he understands her, and can help her to overcome her fears.
The cleverest thing about this story is that the reader knows that Kate's fears are actually real. Although Kate's paranoia is totally over the top, Louise Millar has ensured that the reader can empathise with her. Only we know that danger is lurking, that Kate's fears are real, she's not going mad at all.
Louise Millar weaves a story that keeps the reader gripped from the opening lines. There are twists and turns all over the place, the biggest and most shocking being towards the end. I certainly didn't see it coming, and that for me, makes the perfect reading experience. I love it when a book shocks and surprises me and this one certainly did that.
There is no doubt that Louise Millar is an excellent author and has now produced two very well-written, suspenseful novels that are a must-read for any fan of psychological thrillers
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