J.S. Monroe's Find Me is a tremendous read. The story unfolds at a great pace and the narrative structure is used with great finesse to keep the reader puzzled and on the very edge of resolving the mystery.
Rosa, a troubled young Oxford undergraduate, has committed suicide. With the apparent and highly unsettling sightings of her by Jar, the young Irish writer with whom Rosa had an intense but all too brief affair, you spend the book’s first section wondering what kind of world you are entering.
It is only on page 93 that one of the characters lets you down none too gently with a very short sentence: “This is not a ghost story.” But there is still the web of events that may be coincidences misread as connections - or may not be.
The first part of Find Me tightens the mystery of Rosa’s apparent reappearance. The second part is an even tighter unravelling of that mystery. It is difficult to say much more without adding a 'spoiler alert'.
Find Me is a thriller that combines a young man’s post-bereavement hallucinations with a very taut cat and mouse chase involving a garden shed, the ‘dark web’ and hacking galore. And among a cast of strange characters there is at least one mouse – called Rosa - that drowns.
The main characters are very clearly drawn – with just enough left unsaid to keep you guessing. Much of the well controlled tension is produced by cleverly alternating the story between the main characters.
In part one, as the hunt for a vital hard drive continues, readers are in the privileged position of being first to find out what is on the hard drive. Or are they? Is Jar being ‘played’ – as one of his helpers suspects?
The author says he was inspired to change genres – switching from his spy novels to this psychological thriller – as he had so enjoyed reading The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. But J.S. Monroe cannot quite leave behind the world of spies spy he wrote about as Jon Stock. In telling us that, perhaps he too is laying a false trail for his readers. Watch out for it.
Having got as far into the ‘dark web’ as is good for one’s sanity, we then get drawn into recent history with the CIA’s use of nasty psychological experiments that surround the nasty theory – and practice – of ‘learned helplessness’.
There are clear echoes in Find Me of current controversies – not just about torture, but about the media and truth. We get right up to date with a George Orwell definition: “Journalism is printing what someone else doesn’t want printing. Everything else is public relations.” So we tiptoe into President Trump’s world where torture by the CIA is okay and all journalism should be PR for himself.
I was intrigued to read in the Marlborough.News report of the Marlborough launch for Find Me, that a friend of the author had devoured the book at one sitting – all eight hours of it. I did not manage the eight hour record, but I did finish it at one o’clock in the morning. Good finding…
You can read more about the author on Marlborough.News and Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop still has signed copies of Find Me.