A few months ago, I was lucky enough to win a signed proof of this psychological thriller during Quercus’s Summer Preview on zoom. Now I’ve read it, and it really lived up to its title and I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for it.
Narrated by Sophie, now in her early thirties, this is the story of a serial killer, Matty Melgren, sent down for life for multiple murders although the evidence was a little slight, he has always maintained his innocence.
Sophie and her mother Amelia-Rose moved from Boston in the USA to London when Sophie was twelve. Her mother was totally fed up with her own devout parents questioning her decision to resolutely remain a single parent. A new life beckons and they’re happy, at least for a while, living near Parliament Hill in Camden.
Something has happened to make Sophie tell her story: a letter has arrived from Battlemouth Prison. She talks to her mother.
‘Matty’s dying,’ I tell my mother. Not gleeful, but not sorry either. ‘Pancreatic cancer.’
‘Couple of weeks? Possibly less.’ I take a breath, let it out slowly. ‘They say he wants to talk. To meet.’
I hear the hope in her tone, the desperate need for closure. My skin prickles. I need that too. And yet…
At this very early stage in the narrative, we’re not sure what Matty is to Sophie and Amelia-Rose, but within a couple of chapters, he is established as her mum’s new boyfriend – although he claims to be an old friend. Matty is charismatic, Irish, works as a grief counsellor – and soon wins over Sophie, becoming a bit of a surrogate father to her, and hanging out at their house all the time. Everything is going well, although Matty can be a bit odd at times. Sophie’s mum would now like nothing better than to marry him, but it seems that Matty isn’t the marrying kind. He also didn’t like Amelia-Rose and Sophie turning up unannounced at his flat. When Sophie’s mum picks up a lone earring there, the atmosphere becomes distinctly cool.
This is when the murders start happening in North London. They appear random, and the police keep the details quiet. However, each of the young women killed has long brown curly hair like Amelia-Rose.
The couple’s relationship begins to deteriorate. Amelia-Rose is beginning to descend into an alcoholic haze. Matty gets questioned but not arrested initially – all men in the area are being quizzed. Sophie is fascinated by the murders, and there is something in the back of her mind that suggests that Matty could be involved. However, she can’t believe that this man, who is kind and fun with her, being the father she’s never had, could have anything to do with them. Sophie and Amelia-Rose, as Americans getting to know life in London, are outsiders: as is Matty, you could say. Maybe it’s those differences that bring them together and different habits
We know from the novel’s beginning that eventually Matty was convicted, and branded a monster. Sophie and Amelia-Rose are wracked with guilt, something they have to live with. They should have realised what he was, shouldn’t they? By not admitting that they had their suspicions earlier, are they not complicit in the later murders? It’s been twenty years and now Matty wants to talk to her. Of course, she’ll keep the appointment.
Having reached the end of the novel with its absolutely chilling climax and twist that was really impossible to see coming, hindsight suddenly begins to clarify things that happened earlier in the story. The clues are there, but only if you know to look for them. Selman’s plotting is very well done. For the reader, there’s never really any question about Matty’s guilt, but we do need to get inside Sophie and Amelia-Roses’ minds to work out how they couldn’t see the wood for the trees and be taken in by him.
There must be other novels which see serial killers through the eyes of those close to them, but I don’t think I’ve read one, so I particularly enjoyed this unique point of view. Selman’s take on the serial killer thriller is cleverly constructed and page-turning in its suspense, which naturally builds up to Sophie’s visit to see the dying Matty. All the way through, we wonder if she’ll get the answers she needs. I devoured this book, desperate to find out what really happened, and can totally recommend it for fans of the genre, don’t you just love that tagline?
‘He’s a monster, hated by everyone. . . but you.’
Source: Review copy – Thank you!
Victoria Selman, Truly, Darkly, Deeply – Quercus hardback, 352 pages, 7th July. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.