Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough: Review
Everyone has their secrets.
Natasha hides the bruises from her best friend Lisa.
Lisa’s daughter, Ava, hides the man she’s been talking to online.
And Lisa, she hides the biggest secret of them all.
Lisa leads a quiet life, deliberately so. She doesn’t use social media and has been happily toiling away in the same job for years, between her daughter, Ava, and her best friend, Natasha, she has all she needs. But as Ava starts to spread her wings and spend more time with her friends, Lisa starts to see and hear things that remind her of a life she thought she’d left behind. That song on the radio, the toy left abandoned on her street and the missing photo from her house, they could all be coincidences.
While relaxing with friends at the village festival, Ava hears yelling and sees a small boy has fallen into the river. Others are helping but she’s on the swim team and she knows the currents will be strong so she dives in to save the flailing child. Both back on dry land, Lisa hears the commotion and rushes to make sure her daughter is ok. The local press catches a photograph of them together, the local hero and her mother. For the first time in years, Lisa’s photo is in the public eye…anyone might see it.
Sarah Pinborough has written over twenty novels from modern re-telling of fairy tales and Victorian crime to her current genre of psychological thrillers (and I say ‘current’ because this lady seems capable of turning her hand to any genre she fancies). This on its own is mind-blowing but the fact that her skill for crafting the unexpected never wavers is astonishing.
In Cross Her Heart Sarah Pinborough sets the scene for a good, standard thriller. You see where it’s all heading and look forward to the journey; the online threat, an abusive husband and the horrific memories of losing a child. She sprinkles Lisa, the main protagonist, in self-doubt. She sees warning signs hinting at her past all around her, Pinborough ramps up the tension but makes you think Lisa is another unreliable, jumpy female narrator (joining the likes of Rachel from The Girl on the Train). Then, approximately 100 pages in, she tears the rug from under you. Cross Her Heart is not what you expect.
In a recent article with the Guardian, Sarah Pinborough said “You can never cheat the reader…You always have to put the clues in there, you want people to get to the end and say, ‘I should have got that’, but for them to feel satisfied that they didn’t. I like the idea of books being sleight of hand. Those are the sort of books I like reading myself.” This quote sums up everything she’s achieved with Cross Her Heart perfectly.
Cross Her Heart is a novel of female friendships, unexpected twists, revenge and innocence lost. It’s also a stunning page-turner, as soon as the first twist is revealed you won’t want to put it down. Sarah Pinborough’s previous novel, the Sunday Times #1 bestseller and Richard & Judy Book Club pick Behind Her Eyes, stunned readers with an incredible reveal (see people’s minds being blown under the hashtag #wtfthatending) but I think Cross Her Heart has just pipped it to the post as my favourite Sarah Pinborough thriller so far.
There’s a wealth of psychological thrillers on the market at the moment but Cross Her Heart is a novel to stand out from the rest. Fast-paced, filled with well-rounded characters and a thrill-ride from start to finish, Sarah Pinborough has done it again.
I was also excited to read that the television rights to Cross Her Heart have already been bought by the British production company World Productions, who are behind incredible series such as Line of Duty and Save Me. Sarah Pinborough’s earlier novels, Behind Her Eyes and 13 Minutes are also currently in production. With that and another book currently in the works (as mentioned on her Twitter), it’s great to know there’s lots more to come from Sarah Pinborough because I’ll be watching and reading it all.