Warning: may contain spoilers. What would you do if you woke up and realised you had forgotten everything? Who your family is, your friends, where you live, even your own name?
That’s what happens to the mysterious protagonist in local author JS Monroe’s latest thriller novel – Forget My Name.
What follows is a gripping tale involving pub quizzes, vegan food, seahorses and murder, where the characters’ lives are turned upside down in a quiet village as they try, along with the reader, to ascertain exactly who this unnamed woman could be, and if she is telling the truth about her intentions.
Is she a murderer? Related to the old flame of the resident journalist? Or someone else entirely? With all these different identities implied, the plot can become a bit convoluted at times, and there are a fair few coincidences.
However, Forget My Name is set apart by its brilliant characterisation, combined with tiny details about anything from memory loss to Berlin to the Baha’i religion, that reveal the in-depth research that must have taken place to bring the book to life.
The character of Luke was a particular favourite of mine. He’s a witty journalist whose unlikely friendship with the oddball Sean leads to some humorous conversations.
Luke is consumed by the past and disconnected from his son, Milo. His attempts to relate to his son result in one of my favourite scenes in the book, when he covertly Shazams (song recognition app) a song Milo is listening to so that he can pretend to be up to date with the current music scene.
I was also a fan of Detective Inspector Silas Hart, a quietly cynical, but amusing character whose views on Swindon will not please anyone who likes that town.
On a side note, I enjoyed that the book was set in the local area. The fact that the places mentioned are well-known to me was a nice touch that I had never considered before when reading thrillers. I had taken for granted that literary drama and intrigue usually takes place on the streets of London or New York rather than by a canal up the road from home.
The only negatives I found were to do with the relationships in the book and the fact they were not always fully fleshed out. The marriage of Laura and Tony (the couple who invite the unnamed woman into their house), for example could have been focused on a bit more. The relationship between Silas and his son Conor was never resolved and the whole situation felt superfluous to the plot.
Despite this, Forget My Name was a worthwhile and enjoyable read and there were some truly shocking moments in the book. Personally, I will never see seahorses in the same way again. I am looking forward to reading Monroe’s best-selling debut – Find Me.
J.S. Monroe’s Forget My Name is published by Head of Zeus Publishing. The photo of JS Monroe above is © Hilary Stock