What She Saw Last Night by M.J. Cross #BookReview #BlogTour

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin ... but there's no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don't believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn't the truth.

It's an absolute pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for What She Saw Last Night today. Many thanks to Mason Cross, Orion Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for sending me a copy of the novel.

What She Saw Last Night begins with a chance moment, the sort of fleeting exchange between two people which would ordinarily be quickly forgotten about. Jenny Bowen is travelling to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper and as she boards, returns a dropped soft toy rabbit to the woman in another room; noticing as she does that she is accompanied by a little girl. There always seems something rather romantic about the sleeper train but Jenny's trip proves to be anything but when she wakes in the night and discovers the body of the woman. It looks as if she died as a result of a drug overdose and Detective Inspector Porter is certainly keen to have it wrapped up as such. If finding a dead body wasn't upsetting enough, Jenny then learns that there is no evidence that the woman ever had a child with her. She is shocked but Porter snidely wonders if perhaps she had been drinking that night. There is an instant mutual dislike between the pair and it's obvious right from the start that Porter is an arrogant and lazy man with an infuriatingly condescending attitude towards anybody he considers his subordinate. This includes his sergeant, Mike Flynn who is a far more agreeable character. He admits to Jenny that his hands are rather tied by the lack of any firm proof that the little girl ever existed - there is no CCTV proof and no corroborating witnesses - but crucially, he doesn't totally dismiss her claims.
Jenny has been going through a difficult time of it  - she is divorcing her husband due to his infidelity and her father has recently died - and she briefly wonders whether she could have been mistaken. This early element of doubt as to the state of her mind never led to me doubting her but I thought it very cleverly communicated how unsettling it must be to be in the position where you even begin to question your own mind. Fortunately for Jenny, she gains an important ally in Mike after he begins to suspect this isn't as straightforward a case as Porter would like to believe.
It may start as a perplexing mystery but as Jenny realises she can't just move on and forget what she knows she saw, the book becomes a nerve-wracking cat-and-mouse chase thriller. I've recently been craving a novel which features an almost unbearable sense of heart-pounding tension and What She Saw Last Night is most definitely what I've been looking for. I couldn't tear my eyes from the page as the dramatic action and taut, suspenseful plotting ensured I raced through the chapters with my heart in my mouth. Jenny is the perfect protagonist for this type of story; insightful and resourceful even though she is clearly out of her depth, she feels compelled to investigate what happened to the young girl. As she realises she has put herself in terrible danger, she persists in following the leads she uncovers despite the terrifying near-misses she encounters with those who will stop at nothing to ensure she doesn't succeed in her pursuit for the truth. I loved the relationship that develops between her and Mike which sees them pitted against a sinister enemy and risking everything as they become both the hunters and the hunted. The sparks fly between them at times too, adding an altogether different sort of tension.
I'm so glad I don't write my books of the year post until later in December because it would have been a real shame not to include What She Saw Last Night. At this point in the year, I've read a lot of thrillers and this is undoubtedly right up there with the best of them. The action unfurls at a lightning pace and sees Jenny and Mike race from Scotland to London and back again, with the contrasting settings providing a fascinating backdrop to the plot. From the claustrophobic, locked-room train to the frantic city streets and the remote, exposed Highlands, it seems that nowhere is safe from their malevolent, relentless foe. The constant threat of capture is present throughout and there are some genuinely shocking scenes which completely wrong-footed me, leading up to a terrifically intense finale. Gripping, emotional and devastating; this is a superbly crafted thriller and it gives me enormous pleasure to wholeheartedly recommend it.

What She Saw Last Night is published by Orion Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

MJ Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. He has written a number of short stories, including 'A Living', which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads 'Get Britain Reading' Award. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children.
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