I do love a debut. A shiny first novel by an author that you’ve never heard of before. No preconceptions. No wondering whether this book will ever live up to their incredible ‘first book.’ Just a few sentences; a pithy synopsis to pique your interest.
As the majority of my book choices are recommendation based, it is refreshing sometimes just to try something completely new. I regularly trawl the internet for new reads and scour the shelves at work, but I find the ‘New Authors’ page on Fantastic Fiction most useful.
Over the years, I have found some amazing little books this way- Deborah Install’s gorgeous A Robot in the Garden and the fascinating Look who’s back by Timur Vermes, for example. (I’m not going to pretend I found Robert Galbraith this way- although I really wish I had!).
Recently, I found Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan. Set in Cambridge, the main protagonist, Margot- a Classics teacher-cum-advice columnist (alter-ego ‘Amy’)- finds herself at the centre of a troubling mystery. A young girl disappears and, shortly after, ‘Amy’ receives a letter from Bethan, the girl who disappeared in a similar manner twenty years ago. It falls neatly into the ‘psychological thriller’ bracket that I crave so often, and I was suitably intrigued.
I wasn’t disappointed. It was an easy, pacy read, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep me interested. I devoured the whole thing in two sittings. I read a lot of thrillers (as you’ve probably guessed by now) and usually I can see an ending coming a mile off. This one though, did catch me off guard.
I’m not going to pretend that I liked Margot, but I don’t think that really matters (I hated Gillian Flynn’s Libby Day in Dark Places and still loved the book). I’m also not going to pretend it was the best thriller I’ve ever read. But the point I’m making is that it was worth a shot. If you don’t give new authors (or genres for that matter) a go, then you could miss out on a book that catches you off guard.