Thriller Thursday: The Split by Sharon Bolton
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (April 28, 2020)
Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
Narrator: Katie Scarfe
Didn’t enjoy this one as much as I expected, but I think it had more to do with how I thought this book would play out. In the end, the story was a bit on the predictable side, and I had also hoped for more of it to take place on South Georgia off of Antarctica.
In reality though, only the first and last parts of the novel are set on the remote and icy island. A good chunk of it actually is told in flashback, chronicling the months leading up to protagonist Felicity Lloyd’s desperate attempt to get off the grid. The glaciologist is terrified for her life, knowing that her ex-husband Freddie will come hunting for her now that he’s out of prison for murder, and she knows he won’t stop until she is dead. By taking a job on South Georgia Island, she’s hoping she can buy some time by going into hiding in one of the most isolated places on earth. But then she learns of a suspicious passenger on an incoming ship due to arrive soon on the island, and is immediately filled with panic and dread, believing that Freddie has found her after all.
All of this is in the introduction, after which the plot shifts gears, focusing on events which unfolded in the last year between Felicity and her psychiatrist Dr. Joe Grant in Cambridge, England. The two of them had started therapy sessions together after Felicity reported experiencing memory lapses and other worrying symptoms that may prevent her from going on her Antarctic research trip. Joe must find the root cause of Felicity’s amnesia in order to clear her medically, but in doing so, he discovers a lot more behind the young woman’s troubles. In addition, we are also introduced to Joe’s mother, the indomitable police detective Delilah Jones, who is in the middle of leading a case involving a recent string of mysterious deaths in the area.
As I was reading The Split, there was a clear division in my mind between the parts that took place on South Georgia Island and the parts which unfolded in Cambridge, and the contrast went well beyond differences in the setting. For me it was also in the energy levels and pacing, and I confess it was somewhat disappointing for the book to start off with so much urgency just to fall back into a slower rhythm as we flashed back to England. It was also difficult to get a “feel” for the plot in this section as we bounced back and forth between perspectives, especially given Felicity’s strange affliction (though you don’t even have to be an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers to figure out the reason for her blackouts, it’s a popular cliché), she’s not the most reliable of narrators.
As I said, the story was also pretty predictable, and ironically, the more the author tried to obfuscate the truth by deliberately causing disjointedness and confusion in the plot, the more obvious the answers became. There were too many glaring discrepancies in Felicity’s background that I couldn’t help but fixate on, and as a result, it didn’t take much to connect all the little clues which probably weren’t meant to be so transparent. Unfortunately, with everything clicking into place before we even reached the halfway point, there wasn’t much left to carry on the intrigue.
Thankfully, in the last section of the book, we return to South Georgia Island to finish off this tale. I love horror and thrillers set in icy and snowy isolated settings, so this ending was definitely more in line with what I had been expecting when I first saw the synopsis for The Split. While this excitement might have come a little too late for salvaging the final rating for this review, I did appreciate the moments, however brief, where readers got to experience the full brunt of the unforgiving Antarctic.
All told, The Split was a decent suspense-thriller, but I doubt it would satisfy more experienced fans of the genre or readers who expected to see more of the action play out in a subzero setting. The writing was solid, but the story’s main weakness rested in its predictable outcomes and the resulting lack of big surprises or twists. While I still liked the book, I wish it had been more.
Audiobook Comments: Whatever issues I had with the story stemmed from the way it was written and not the way it was read. Narrator Katie Scarfe actually delivered a good performance with her emphatic voice acting, and overall the audio was well produced.