Title: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, and Paula Hawkins comes Holly Seddon’s arresting fiction debut—an engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense.
Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.
Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found unconscious after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Amy Stevenson, who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.
Soon Alex’s routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter’s story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from her attempt to uncover the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she’s not just chasing a story—she’s seeking salvation.
Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.
In Holly Seddon’s riveting debut, Try Not to Breathe, an alcoholic journalist solves a fifteen year old mystery and at the same time, edges toward taking control of her drinking problem.
Thirty year old Alex Dale has hit rock bottom more times than she can count, but despite losing her career, her husband and her unborn baby, she has not been able to stop drinking. Now divorced and living alone, she is a freelance journalist whose days are spent carefully managing her drinking in an attempt to stop some of her drunken behavior (out of control spending, drunken encounters, drunk texts, e-mails, etc). While researching a health story about patients who remain in a persistent vegetative state, Alex sees a patient she recognizes: Amy Stevenson, a young woman who has been in a coma since she was sexually assaulted and brutally attacked fifteen years earlier. With the cold case standing out in her mind since she and Amy grew up in the same town and are roughly the same age, Alex quickly becomes obsessed with trying to find Amy’s attacker.
Alex’s long term alcohol abuse has taken a toll on every aspect of her life including her health. Unable to stop drinking, she has devised a plan that lets her continue drinking heavily while at the same time managing her freelance work. Her mornings are dedicated to researching and writing her articles, but one eye is always on the clock as she anticipates pouring her first drink of the day. Every day at noon, her elaborate routine begins and Alex continues drinking until eventually passing out later that night. But as she is drawn further and further into her investigation, she finally begins to address her health problems and Alex gradually starts cutting back on her alcohol consumption.
With a fifteen year gap between the initial attack and her investigation, Alex’s progress is slow and often hampered by lack of evidence. She doggedly tracks down Amy’s old friends who offer a little insight into the events preceding the assault, but these revelations do not produce any solid leads for her to follow. It is not until she crosses paths with Amy’s teenage boyfriend, Jake, that she begins making a little headway uncovering Amy’s secrets. With a little reluctant assistance from her policeman ex-husband, Alex finally gets the break she needs to crack the case wide open and identify Amy’s attacker.
Written from alternating perspectives, Try Not to Breathe is an engrossing mystery with a unique storyline and a multi-faceted cast of characters. Part character study and part whodunit, Holly Seddon expertly weaves past and present events into a compelling and intriguing novel of redemption that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last page is turned.