Book Review: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: William Morrow (September 4, 2018)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Sarah Pinborough is really killing it with her thrillers lately (no pun intended). Her last two books that I read and loved were 13 Minutes and Behind Her Eyes. Even though I discovered her work and became a fan through her fantasy and horror fiction, I’m at the point where I’ll pick up anything she writes, and if she were to continue writing in the psychological suspense genre I would not be disappointed at all.

In Cross Her Heart, we follow the lives of Lisa and her sixteen-year-old daughter Ava. While Lisa can be a bit overprotective, more so than the average parent, and Ava is a typical rebellious teenager, discovering her sexuality and testing her limits, on the outside, theirs is like any other mother-daughter relationship. However, both are hiding secrets that can threaten to tear their lives apart, and neither realize that the other not knowing would ultimately lead them into great danger.

For the moment though, Lisa is content. Ava is doing well at school and has great friends on her swim team. Lisa also loves her job working in the same office as her best friend Marilyn, who is encouraging her to get back into the dating scene. For once, Lisa feels she relax her guard and allow herself to be happy again.

But then one day, that calm is shattered when Lisa comes across a terrifying discovery left for her to find. It is a cruel reminder that she cannot escape her past. Someone knows her secret, and now they’ve tracked her down. Meanwhile, Ava has a new boyfriend, but her mind is on someone else—the one she has been exchanging sexy and exciting Facebook messages with, her secret lover who makes her feel so grown up and independent. Her mother, whom Ava resents for still treating her like a child, would never understand, of course.

Like the author’s previous novel Behind Her Eyes, this one also contains several surprising and game-changing twists, often accompanied by significant shifts in the storytelling. It also explores some rather uncomfortable questions about human nature. Do people change? Few of us are the same as we were when we were children—we grow up, we learn new things, we start seeing the world differently…but do we ever lose the very essence of our personality, the main ingredients that shape who we are? Do second chances and do-overs exist, and can society ever forgive? On the face of it, Cross Her Heart reads like your standard psychological thriller, perhaps slightly over-the-top at times, but it nonetheless gave me plenty of to chew on.

I also loved the relationship dynamics that are the central focus of this novel. Everything about the plot hinges upon Lisa’s love for Ava, or the strength of her friendship with Marilyn. While in my opinion, the portrayal of the supporting cast was rather weak and clichéd (e.g. the “bad men” in this story were all sexist assholes or abusive drunks, the difficult new coworker was predictably a manipulative and conniving bitch, and the police and law enforcement figures who were supposed to be helping were instead painted as apathetic, patronizing, and incompetent), I could tell Pinborough was channeling all her energies on developing the three main characters. All of them—Lisa, Ava, and Marilyn—were flawed individuals too, no doubt. But unlike many of the minor characters in the background, they actually came across like genuine people, each with their personal stories to tell and lives that are fascinating in their own way.

The plot was also entertaining. While I cannot say it was terribly elegant or original since Pinborough does employ a few tricks that can be considered somewhat trite and overused, the story was still nonetheless incredibly fun and addictive. Certain tropes were utilized to great effect, and even though the overall premise was perhaps a little too sensationalist, the villain perhaps a little too outrageous and unbelievable—hey, I still had a great time.

At the end of the day, I love the imagination and magic Sarah Pinborough puts into her fantasy novels, but I also love it when she gets down and real with her bold, gritty, and twisted thrillers. She’s part of a rare group of authors who seem comfortable writing in any genre they set their minds to, delivering crowd-pleasers every time.

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27 Comments on “Book Review: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

  1. I keep meaning to read more of her books ever since I feel in love with The Language of Dying. I own Behind Her Eyes and this is another I want to grab soon. Great review. I’m seeing too many good reviews today and my TBR is unmanageable enough as it is!

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  2. Huh, I haven’t read anything by this author, but I’m curious now! I’m always down for sensationalism if the characters are nuanced enough, and it does sound like a fun read, so maybe I’ll pick it up one day. Excellent review!

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  3. I’ve heard a lot about her work recently, especially the plot twists she loves to give fans. Really stunned that she’s already got another book published already! That’s some super quick writing! Glad to hear it was also really good too. Definitely makes me want to give her books a shot someday! Great review!

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  4. Yeah, Pinborough doesn’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong for me too at the moment. I’m loving her work and whilst I’d probably be overjoyed if she returned to the fantasy arena I’m enjoying her psychological thrillers because they seem a little like a breath of fresh air somehow, almost as though they’re not taking themselves ‘too’ seriously somehow. I enjoyed this one too, I think some of the characters come across a little stereotyped and I’d kind of guessed the main plot but I was totally thrown off by everything else.
    Lynn 😀

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    • I feel the same way. I would be thrilled if her next book is a fantasy, but I’d be perfectly happy too if she were to continue writing thriller! I think her thrillers are more consistently well told, while her fantasy can actually be quite hit or miss!

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  5. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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