“You never feel heartache as keenly as you do when you’re young. You think it’ll destroy you and that you will never love, or be loved, again.”
The debut novel from C.L. Taylor and published in 2014, The Accident (Also known as Before I Wake) follows Sue Jackson, a mother and wife who seemingly has the perfect family. That is until her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma. Retracing her daughter’s steps, she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and is forced to look into the depths of her own past. There is a lot that Sue doesn’t know about Charlotte’s life. But then there’s a lot that Charlotte doesn’t know about Sue’s.
A book about secrets, The Accident is the thriller that started it all for C.L. Taylor. Full of twists, dark pasts, and an engrossing mystery, it is everything that you would want it to be, even if a little write-by-numbers.
Taylor is obviously an incredibly talented writer, but you can tell that this is her first book. However, she has created such a well-rounded story with increasing tension that it totally absorbs you into Sue’s situation. Alternating chapters between Sue’s present and her past, with a twenty-year lapse between the two, it is quite dark at times as it details Sue’s abusive past, but Taylor never makes you feel too uncomfortable with too many details.
It does follow quite a strict formula, ending every chapter with a cliff-hanger and starting every new chapter with an intriguing scene, but it works. It keeps the pace fast and ensures that you keep turning the pages. You can tell that the thriller has been dragged out a little as Sue doesn’t ask the questions she should straight away, but you can also tell that Taylor has gone through this story many times to ensure that she hasn’t missed out any details or left any questions unanswered. She spends time on each and every character, no matter how small, making sure that they each add something to the story and that their purpose is obvious.
This isn’t C.L. Taylor’s best book so if you are new to her as an author then I would recommend her more recent work, but if you are a fan already then you are going to enjoy the familiar feel to this mystery and to see where it all began.