Erin Kelly’s newest page-turner, He Said/She Said, is not your average thriller. There’s no murder mystery, no missing persons, no detectives – but you’ll still be utterly gripped by the psychological drama and questioning the characters, and yourself, at every turn.
It’s 1999. Laura is young, free-spirited, and on her way to watch a total eclipse at a Cornwell festival with her friends and boyfriend, Kit. This eclipse is Laura’s first, and the utterly breathtaking experience stays with her for the rest of her life. But it’s not just what Laura saw in the sky that night that will shape the years to come – but what she saw in the darkness.
On their way back to the campsite, Laura and Kit stumble across a couple in a disturbing position. The man, Jamie, quickly defends himself, saying what they saw was consensual. The woman, Beth, is silent. Months later, Laura finds herself the prosecution’s key witness in the sexual assault trial. Jamie’s high-powered lawyers try to trip her up, but Laura is confident of what she saw, and knows her testimony could be what puts Beth’s attacker away. She needs to be strong – for Kit, for Beth, for herself. What Laura says in the witness box that day will change all of their lives forever, in ways she can’t begin to imagine.
After the trial, Beth starts to play a bigger role in Kit and Laura’s lives. But after her gratefulness takes a dangerous edge and they see her everywhere they turn, Laura and Kit realise they need to escape. When we meet them in the present day, years of living in fear and doubt have taken their toll. They’re still deeply in love and about to add to their family, but another eclipse is on the horizon and Kit is traveling to Iceland to see it, leaving Laura behind. As the eclipse approaches, Laura realises it may be time for secrets she’s been keeping for years to come to light . . .
It’s important to note that He Said/She Said deals with some distressing topics. Although we see it in the news, stories around sexual assault don’t regularly make it into bookstores. He Said/She Said is author Erin Kelly’s fifth thriller, but she says this one is ‘the most personal, important story I have ever told.’ The novel gives insight into the justice process for these kinds of cases, and shows the traumatic repercussions for all involved.
The eclipses form the core of the novel, both literally and metaphorically. Kit is drawn to them – the couple have committed to seeing each and every one in their lifetime together – and the eclipses become a road map, not just for Laura and Kit, but also for Beth. The duality of light/dark and truth/lies reoccur throughout the book, as the characters, and the reader, start to wonder who to really trust and if they’ll ever be able to see the whole picture.
Although there’s no rapidly increasing body count, He Said/She Said is certainly still a mystery you’ll be working to crack. Readers get into the heads of both Kit and Laura, and can see how events unfold from both perspectives. There are plenty of twists and turns, and you’ll never be quite sure who you can believe. And like an eclipse, the novel has different stages. By the time the moon has completely covered the sun and Laura and Kit’s secrets begin to be laid bare, He Said/She Said picks up its pace, and rattles towards an incredibly dramatic finale.
Kelly has created very real, very flawed protagonists, and you’ll find yourself debating their morals and motivations, and maybe even your own. It’s a thought-provoking novel that does more than just weave an intricately crafted plot (although it does that too). He Said/She Said is a gripping, psychological thriller about right and wrong, light and dark, and the gaps that sometime appear in between.
Erin Kelly is the author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters.