book review – The Other You

As a fanatic of baths so hot I could boil myself alive in there, I’ve found myself wallowing in water chilly enough to qualify as an elite athlete’s ice bath … The Other You was impossible to put down!

An unusually pacy twist on the standard domestic thriller … propulsive and fun.
The Daily Telegraph

what it says on the cover …

Super recognisers are born with the ability to remember a face forever, even from a single glance. Kate was one of them. She worked for the police, using her gift to spot criminals and save lives.

Then came the accident. Deprived of her abilities after a devastating car crash, Kate found refuge in a new relationship. She met Rob in hospital, and he nursed her back to health in his beautiful house in Cornwall.

But now something feels horribly wrong. Rob looks the same, but Kate feels certain: the man she fell in love with has been replaced by an impostor. Is this the paranoia of a damaged mind? Or is it Kate’s old instinct, screaming one last warning?

SHELF: suspense | thriller
MY RATING: ★★★★☆
AUTHOR: J. S. Monroe
PUBLISHER: Head of Zeus
FORMATS: Paperback | Hardback | Kindle | AudioBook
PUBLISHED: January 2020

Everyone has their darker side. The face that they hide from the world. Sometimes they might even glimpse it in another, in one of their shadowless doubles that roam this earth, but most people learn not to act upon their word impulses.

my review

In this digital age, The Other You takes the reader into a deeply unsettling, and all too probable, scenario where the lines between progress and exploitation, security and crime have become irrevocably blurred. The technology we embrace to assist and improve our daily lives are turned against us, and the reliability of our own human instincts are tested in this chilling and absorbing story. 

The Other You opens to Kate’s new life in Cornwall.  She’s living in her new boyfriend’s smart-home in Cornwall and recovering from an horrific head injury caused when she fell asleep at the wheel of her ancient Morris Traveller.  During the week, tech-wiz Rob works up in London, but at the weekends they share an idyllic coastal lifestyle.  Kate’s (wonderfully-named) Dachshund, Stretch is her only companion during the week, but this isolated existence suits Kate.  

Before the accident, Kate worked as a super-recogniser for DI Silas Hart, where she’d played a crucial role identifying drug traffickers in a major county-lines operation.  The whole team had been working long hours on the case, so whilst Kate’s accident was shocking, it was initially written off as being caused by exhaustion. However, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that the threat to Kate’s safety isn’t just from the criminals she’s helped to convict. What was once a sanctuary distorts into something deeply sinister, and Kate starts to lose trust in herself, and those closest to her.

The author has woven science and superstition into the story with calculated precision, and I found myself constantly having to reassess my understanding of both Kate and Rob’s characters. At a superficial level, the book artfully draws on the ominous myths surrounding doppelgängers, using them to force the reader to swing from admiring Rob one minute to getting unpleasant chills the next.  Then, just as Kate’s narrative starts to feel more credible, a terrifying (yet real) psychiatric condition called Capgras Syndrome is introduced and I’m jettisoned back to square-one, doubting her reliability.

The book is structured in compulsively short chapters; these bite-size dioramas, coupled with the pacy, attention-grabbing plot had me tearing through the pages. And yet, the tension and suspense are tantalisingly drawn-out as the chapters hop between three story-tellers: Kate, Jake (her ex boyfriend), and Silas.

There is a small element of sci-fi to The Other You, but this is unquestionably a perfectly plausible, present day thriller.  It’s only during the final chapters of the book that the author pushes the reader to take a bit of a leap, but the irresistible momentum of the plot made me all too happy to open my mind to the (sickening) realms of what might just already be possible. The twists in the story spiral in their intensity during the latter chapters, and I found it impossible to look away.  But if you like a neatly closed-out ending, then you should prepare yourself for one final, movie-worthy, twist.

Once you’ve set fire to your Alexa, your smart watch, your tablet (don’t cut corners, chuck it all in) and closed all your social media accounts, I  totally recommend you settle yourself down to read this cracking book.  To be on the safe side though, I’d suggest the paperback option … you just never know!

Thank you to the publishers, Head Of Zeus, for sending me advance proof copy of The Other You in return for an honest review.

j.s. monroe

J.S.Monroe is the pseudonym of the British author Jon Stock. Jon is the author of six spy novels and three standalone psychological thrillers. He lives in Wiltshire with his wife and children.

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