REVIEW: The Things You Didn’t See by Ruth Dugdall

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Read this book for: unreliable narrator, psychological thriller, UK mystery, family mystery, multiple interpretations of events, suspense

Quick Review: An eerie, suspenseful novel that keeps you questioning everything you have learned, a twisting narrative with a satisfying end.


On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye. With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on? With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?

THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T SEE is a psychological thriller/suspense novel by crime writer Ruth Dugdall. The story is a showcase of her skills, weaving a complicated tale where no one can truly be trusted, and the shifting lenses through which you can see the story change the ‘truth’ completely. The full effect needs to be experienced, because it is a subtle and tense ride!

The story’s narrative duties are shared by Holly, a paramedic trainee with a form of synaesthesia that allows her to intuit people’s physical and emotional states, and Cassandra, a woman who has been dealing with mental issues so long that she doesn’t know which parts of her own perception she can trust. Most of the uncertainty comes from Cassandra — she second-guesses more and more as the novel goes on, which leads us to do the same. By the end of the novel, you are not quite sure what is real. The contrast between the two narrators — one that seems to know more than she should, and one that knows less — makes for a really interesting interplay of perspectives.

The way that Dugdall has framed this story is also a testament to her abilities. She creates multiple plausible answers, believable red herrings that are not obvious as such, and characters that can all be suspected. In fact, the cast and the story is almost Christie-like in the way that the characters and plot fit together to form the solution, which makes it a very enjoyable read. Even better, Dugdall gives you all the tools you need to solve it yourself, meaning you can guess along with Holly and Cassandra and arrive at the solution on your own.

THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T SEE is an interesting idea well-executed, and definitely should be on your reading list if you are looking for suspenseful novels that will keep you guessing.

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