Lock Me In by Kate Simants #BookReview

A debut psychological thriller from a major new talent
Whatever you do, don’t open the door…

By day, Ellie Power has a normal life. She has a stable home, a loving boyfriend, a future.

But at night, she suffers from a sleep disorder. She becomes angry, unpredictable, violent. Her mother locks Ellie in her bedroom every night, to keep them both safe.

Then one morning, Ellie wakes up, horrified to find the lock on her bedroom door smashed from the inside. She is covered in injuries, unable to remember anything about the night before.

And her boyfriend Matt is nowhere to be found…

I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Lock Me In on Hair Past A Freckle today. Many thanks to Kate Simants and HQ Digital for the advance copy of the novel which I received through Netgalley.

‘You want to know fear?’ begins Lock Me In as the prologue describes what it’s like to live  with an ‘alter’. If it’s unnerving enough to feel watched, just imagine how terrifying it must feel to have that person inside you, to know they are always there, listening under your skin. The as yet unnamed narrator explains that doctors recognise this as a known disorder, usually as a result of some great trauma. It’s a really unsettling premise, particularly as we learn that the steps taken to manage the condition have failed and that there are moments where this alter forcibly takes control of the body. That chilling opening line becomes even more sinister with the last few words of this prologue; ‘Fear has a name. Her name is Siggy.’
As the story begins properly, it soon becomes clear that Siggy is the name that a young woman, Ellie has given to her alter. We learn that since childhood she has endured what are termed fugues, which occur only during the night, when Siggy takes control of her body - with devastating results at times. Ellie has been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder and it’s immediately evident that her condition rules her life. Her mother has to lock her in her room every night but it seems that Siggy is nothing if not resourceful and when Ellie wakes up covered in mud and bruises and with cuts on her hand which look like she punctured the skin with barbed wire, she fears the worst. Ellie’s fear of the unknown, of what may have occurred when Siggy was in control is almost palpable but so too is her mother, Christine’s reaction. Her anger isn’t directed at Ellie but at Siggy and it’s plain that she has spent many years managing the situation and reacting to whatever has occurred overnight, taking whatever steps necessary to protect her daughter. Their concern over the whereabouts of Ellie’s boyfriend, Matt becomes even more perturbing with the mentions of Jodie, with whom she shared a close bond during her teenage years. Something terrible obviously happened in the past and Ellie is terrified that Matt may have come to harm.
As she tries to discover what had happened to her missing boyfriend, she is confronted with some faces from her past, most notably Detective Sergeant Ben Kwon Mae. He knew Ellie years ago and was heavily involved in an investigation which resulted in his immediate supervisor being sacked and Mae himself receiving a month’s suspension. Matt’s failure to turn up at work doesn’t look particularly suspicious and it’s the sort of case which would usually be a low key investigation unless new evidence turns up but when Mae discovers the link with Ellie, it becomes something far more personal. The chapters are divided between Ellie’s first person perspective and a third person narrative which follows Mae’s investigation. Although this is a standalone thriller, he is a terrific protagonist and I’m sure I won’t be the only reader who hopes to see him again. In a book which features such a striking lead character in Ellie, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have been more drawn to her chapters but that is far from the case and I enjoyed Mae's parts of the story just as much. I loved seeing how the partnership between him and Trainee Investigator DC Catherine (Kit) Ziegler develops and his eventual recognition that he must face up to the demons from his past and deal with some painful personal decisions. He has to negotiate the challenges of being a single father with a demanding job - not always successfully - and some of the scenes featuring his young daughter are really touching - especially when he has to come to terms with what may be best for her.
As the novel progresses it becomes difficult to know who can be trusted and there are plenty of twists and turns which kept me guessing. Throughout the book there are audio transcripts from sessions Ellie had with a psychotherapist, Charles Cox back in 2006 which are intriguing as much for what Ellie doesn’t say as for what she does divulge. There are constant hints that something terrible happened in her past but it’s not necessarily clear what Cox’s intentions were towards Ellie either and what becomes most obvious is how vulnerable she appears to have been throughout her life. Doubt is also cast throughout as to just exactly what Siggy - and therefore Ellie - is capable of and this makes her position as an unreliable narrator absolutely fascinating, particularly with regards to the fates of Jodie and Matt.
I don’t want to give anything away about the shocking revelations which take place but I can say that although I had correctly worked out part of the plot, it never detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Kate Simants cleverly scattered her clues throughout the proceedings and I was able to follow a few of them but there were still plenty of surprises and red herrings to keep me on my toes. Lock Me In is a beautifully crafted thriller and I was engrossed from start to finish; the gripping plot is dark and disturbing but has some surprisingly emotional scenes, the pacing is superb throughout and the characterisation is excellent - Ellie and Mae obviously, but Christine and Kit are also thoroughly compelling. I highly recommend it and am eagerly looking forward to reading Kate Simants' next book, the winner of the Bath Novel Award 2019, The Knocks.

Lock Me In is published by One More Chapter, an imprint of Harper Collins. Purchasing links can be found here.

About the Author

Kate Simants was born in Devon. After studying English at university, she worked in TV production in London for ten years, specialising in undercover investigations (which was much less glamorous than it sounds), then moved from her little boat on the Thames to a bigger boat on the Avon to start a family and concentrate on writing. She holds two MAs in creative writing from Brunel University and the University of East Anglia, and has been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and the Bath Novel Award, and won the UEA Literary Festival Prize. Kate is now a land-lubber and lives between Bristol and Bath with her family and demented cat. She is a committed faddist, and her current interests include roller-skating, macrame, and Persian cookery.
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