I received a copy of Try Not to Breathe through a CBR giveaway.
The blurb on Goodreads compared Try Not to Breathe to other thrillers, like those of Lianne Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French (all of whom I LOVE). I can kind of see Paula Hawkins — mostly for the main character — but this novel was not quite as well-plotted as your average Moriarty or French. Shockingly, they didn’t choose to reference Gillian Flynn (like everyone else does when discussing mystery books written by a woman & starring one), even though the main character reminded me strongly of some of Flynn’s trainwreck protagonists.
So in 1995, cute teenage girl Amy Stevenson goes missing for a few days, before turning up badly beaten and brain damaged in a field. After clearing her boyfriend and her stepfather, the leads go cold for the police. Fifteen years later, the case remains unsolved while Amy spends her days in a vegetative state in the hospital. Alex Dale, a reporter/trainwreck, stumbles across Amy while doing a story on patients in vegetative states. She gets involved with Amy’s old boyfriend, who visits with Amy daily (unbeknownst to his pregnant and frequently hysterical wife), and together they become determined to solve this cold case, while their own lives sort of fall to pieces around them.
So, the good: the vegetative state thing is interesting. The author gives us a glimpse into Amy’s thoughts, both leading up to the attack and what she occasionally experiences while unconscious. I also liked the ending — I made my mind up about 1/4 of the way through who the bad guy would be, and ended up being wrong (although close!) which is always fun.
But my god, Alex is a chore of a main character. She’s an intense alcoholic — she knows she’s close to liver failure but continues to drink bottles of wine every afternoon/evening. She lost a baby and a marriage over her habit. And she’s super obsessive about it — she starts at the same time every day, marks out what she’s going to drink, has taken precautions against contacting family and wetting the bed. It’s gross and really unpleasant — way beyond what you’d expect from a flawed protagonist. She starts to make improvements towards the end of the book, and I would be interested to see what Seddon does with the character if she ever writes a sequel. But it was just too much in such a short book — it seemed like fully half of the novel was devoted to Alex’s drinking, rather than advancing the plot and/or expanding on the characters.