What is it that makes people do terrible things? Jealousy? Rage? Hate? In 24 Hours by Claire Seeber, Laurie’s best friend has been killed but she knows it was meant to be her. While racing to find her daughter, she must discover the motivation for this devastating crime, as it’s key to outwitting the killer before anyone finds out she’s alive.
In this intense story, chapters labeled ‘NOW’ and ‘THEN’ alternate, causing the suspense of the present and the mystery of the past to collide. A potion for a compelling plot. The opening is gripping with fear for Laurie’s safety paramount and many questions raised. In fact, it feels more like a straight thriller until chapter forty when confusion, danger and vulnerability peak, making it feel more psychological.
Despite the depth and intensity that builds, 24 Hours is a story that’s largely told. A number of key clues, facts and insights are revealed in conversations between characters and news reports. When Laurie narrates, after the suspenseful opening, it reads like an account given to police and, as she begins to make sense of what is happening, it begins to sound a little more like she’s a client in a counseling session. Laurie is, in fact, a therapist, yet her skills seem to have evaporated as she finds it hard to anticipate what others are thinking and to communicate with them in a way that will encourage them to share the truth and keep her out of danger. She also struggles to sort her thoughts and repeats herself, continually reassessing her experiences and views. Maybe this is because she’s in shock and, in this state, it’s easy to fight or run, but tough to think.
Laurie’s mood, which changes as events develop, is often captured well from shock – “Last night reels through my head again and then stops; freezes; rewinds. Plays again. And again. Flames lick against a wall; smoke seeps under doors. The heat; lack of air.” – to sadness – “Lying on the sun-lounger in the dark, the sky a canopy of speckled silver above me, the sadness won.”
There are also moments when other characters’ personalities are shown vividly, for example when her narcissistic ex-husband, Sid, scrawls a message, with her treasured Chanel lipstick, on an expensive pillowcase that was a gift from her missing mother.
24 Hours is full of inconceivable actions, irrational decisions and false avenues to set up an unexpected end, one that surprised me. It actually closes more like a mystery might as, despite a few loose threads, events are explained and the consequences explored. It’s quite a manic journey to reach this point with much melodrama mixed in but the thing to consider, when reading it, is how many of us would do a few mad things if our lives and those of our children were threatened and we had just twenty four hours to ensure our safety?