Holly Seddon’s début novel Try Not To Breathe is about a journalist tackling a fifteen year old cold case, as well as her own alcoholism. A mystery thriller that leaves readers guessing ’till the very end who did it, it provides an interesting insight into the world of coma patients.
Alex Dale is a reporter putting together a story on coma patients when she finds Amy Stevenson, surrounded by Britpop posters and trapped in her fifteen-year-old mind. Remembering seeing news of Amy’s disappearance on the news fifteen years ago, she decides to revisit the case and see if she can dig up anything new.
She knows she’s clutching at straws – something her ex-husband is quick to remind her of – but she’s determined to do something with her life. She knows she has an alcohol addiction, but is unwilling to do anything about it except accept it and drink away her afternoons, hiding her credit card and phone from herself before she creates any embarrassing situations. However, as she becomes more determined to find out what happened Amy, she also slowly accepts that her drinking habits need to stop.
Jacob was Amy’s teenage boyfriend, and he still visits her every week, plagued by guilt and his old feelings for her. He has a wife and a child on the way, but hides the visits from her, thinking that she wouldn’t understand why he was still visiting her and unable to fully understand why himself.
He believes that Amy can hear and understand him, and can’t quite let her go. He does try to help Alex find Amy’s attacker, but his relationship with Fiona and his unwillingness to share what was happening with her was frustrating, especially considering the way their relationship developed.
Seddon has said she took artistic liberties in describing patients in a coma and how well they understood what was going on around them, but what she wrote still felt well researched and realistic. Amy’s perspective was a heartbreaking addition to the story, as it showed how she was trapped in her fifteen-year-old mind and had no concept of how time had moved on since what happened. The way in which the doctor described how they analysed the level of a patients’ understanding to Alex was also fascinating and fairly easy to understand.
Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon is a powerful début novel, with drama, tension and a mystery with a heartbreaking resolution. It’s definitely a must for fans of mystery or psychological thriller novels.