That Night by Gillian McAllister

tense | ridiculously addictive | morally absorbing | twisty | claustrophobic

what it says on the cover …

What would you do to protect your family?


During a family holiday in Italy, you get an urgent call from your sister.
There’s been an accident: she hit a man with her car and he’s dead.
She’s overcome with terror – fearing years in a foreign jail away from her child.
She asks for your help. It wasn’t her fault, not really. She’d cover for you, so will you do the same for her?
But when the police come calling, the lies start. And you each begin to doubt your trust in one another.

What really happened that night?
Who is lying to whom?
Who will be the first to crack?

PUBLISHED: 8th July 2021
SHELF: Fiction | Suspense | Thriller | Crime
AUTHOR: Gillian McAllister
PUBLISHER: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook

my review

You know that saying, “don’t make a scene”?  Well I can say with confidence it doesn’t feature in Gillian McAllister’s approach to writing … That Night is an impeccably well-plotted suspense novel packed with scene after vivid scene. It may be a work of sensational dramatic fiction, but it overlays the very real vulnerabilities and complexities of sibling bonds and family dynamics, plunging three likeable and uncannily relatable protagonists into a nightmare scenario.  Like the characters, the reader isn’t granted the luxury of a quiet moment to think clearly, and you’ll find yourself immediately drawn in to a very messy moral dilemma, goaded to take a side, all the while having your integrity as to right-and-wrong relentlessly challenged.

This a heavily character-driven plot, with short, punchy chapters being narrated by Cathy Plant, and her older brother Joe Plant.  Some chapters are set in the present day, but many of them took place eighteen months previously … all starting with a prologue that stood out to me immediately as one of those moments you’d always look back on and ask yourself, ‘what if’?  The book is peppered with ‘what if’ moments, and although I found myself shrinking back from some of the wilder decisions made by the characters, they all had a knack of coaxing me along with them.

There’s one central character who we only ever get to know through Cathy and Joe, and that’s their youngest sister, Frannie. It’s Frannie who’s landed the three of them in one almighty ordeal, yet she seems all too happy to delegate the fear and the cover-up to Cathy and Joe. Every fibre of me wants to dislike her, but through Cathy and Joe’s story-telling, I’m never quite able to hold on to that reaction.  

The close relationship between the three siblings is extraordinary, and yet their natures are as distinct as chalk and cheese.  Cathy is cool and calm, smothering her loneliness beneath her workaholism, whereas Frannie is vivacious and sunny, and definitely exploits her position as the youngest.  Then there’s Joe, fiercely protective and intelligent – traits he shares with his sisters – but he’s short-tempered and expressive with it, quickly finding himself on the wrong side of the law during their family holiday in Verona.  The three of them have been captured and transcribed to the page most engagingly, but their Venn-diagram of three is missing one person; Rosie, the true baby of the family who died when she was just eight years old. It’s a loss felt most keenly by Cathy and Joe, and goes a significant way to explaining the unusually close sibling bonds … and their acute loyalties.

Shared family memories sit cosily alongside present day settings, with Joe’s wife Lydia and Frannie’s toddler-son, Paul inviting the reader ever closer into the family fold. These perceptively tender and lucid moments have a way of making sure the reader never loses sight of the Plant family at their best, preventing us from focusing only on the crime.  The author’s decision to keep enticing us with these flashbacks is an inspired one … creating a rapport with each of the characters so when the next shock is delivered you really feel the sharp sting of it.

That Night starts with an explosive prologue, and I promise you’ll be helplessly hooked within the next two chapters … this is a ridiculously addictive plot.  And those short, punchy chapters I mentioned earlier?  They just make this all the more difficult to put the book down (pffft, just you try try it!). Whilst the worst happens in those opening chapters, don’t assume the you’re in for an easy ride from therein … this story bristling with the excruciating aftermath of that moment, and the author still has more testing situations to expose her characters to.  Bit by bit, the reader is rendered helpless as Cathy, Joe and Fannie are forced increasingly out of their depth, yet seemingly never losing sight of their loyalty to one another.

As the reader, we have ringside seats when their fragile, protective house of cards comes tumbling down.  Never once have we been allowed to overlook the fact that these are just three ordinary people forced into an impossible spiral by bad decisions borne of well-meaning intent. It’s what makes the moments of reckoning all the more difficult to witness.  During these final chapters I found myself confronted with the truth of how significantly each of them have changed … they’ve aged way more than the eighteen months that’ve passed, and it’s more than a little bit heartbreaking to confront the truth that they’ll never be the same people again.  

In case you haven’t picked up on my vibes so far, I have hugely enjoyed reading That Night.  The simmering tension and sharp, ingenious plotting incited so many incongruous reactions in me, but never once let me perceive the wrongdoings as anything as prosaic or ‘grubby’ as crime.  The nuanced narrative and masterfully-written intensity held me in their grasp from beginning to end. This is a tense, intricate, twisting pleasure to read, whose emotional depth makes for a compelling and diverting book that I urge you to get your hands on.  

Thank you to Jen at Michael Joseph Books for sending me an ARC of That Night. And thanks also to NetGalley for approving my request for a digital copy … proving you can’t have too much of a good thing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my honest review of this book.

If this book sounds like one you’d love to read too, here’s a selection of purchase links:
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author bio

Gillian McAllister is a former lawyer, and Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling author of Everything But The Truth, Anything You Do Say, No Further Questions, and The Evidence Against You. 

She lives out in the countryside in the Midlands with her boyfriend, very orange cat, and puppy. When she’s not writing the loves reading books in bed while it rains, taking baths so hot they turn her skin pink, and that moment where you think ‘what if . . . ‘ and a novel idea is born.

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4 thoughts on “That Night by Gillian McAllister

  1. I’ll definitely be reading this one soon. Gillian McAllister is one of my favourite authors in this genre and it looks like she’s written another great book here! It’s always good to have an opening that draws you in! Amazing review, Sarah 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh thank you for sharing this one – I hadn’t heard of it before but it sounds brilliant! I love it when books manage to be character-centric with a gripping plot at the same time! 📚❤️ X x x

    Liked by 1 person

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