Tuesday 10 August 2021

Substitute by Susi Holliday #Substitute @SJIHolliday @AmazonPub #BookReview


Three people live. Three people die. You make the choice.

Like any mother, Chrissie wants to protect her family. She would do anything to keep them safe. So when a mysterious stranger turns up at her door, offering to prevent the deaths of the people she loves, it sounds too good to be true. The only problem: she must choose someone to die in their place. A substitute.

When her daughter Holly has a terrible accident, Chrissie has no option but to enter the programme. In that horrifying moment, she would do anything to save her. But even after Holly makes a miraculous recovery, Chrissie is convinced it’s just a coincidence. After all, who can really control the laws of life and death?

But as the dangers to her family escalate and her chosen substitutes begin to disappear, Chrissie finds herself in an underworld of hidden laboratories and secretive doctors. And the consequences of playing by their rules are far deadlier than she ever imagined…

Substitute by Susi Holliday is published on 12 August 2021 by Thomas & Mercer. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

I have been a massive fan of this author for quite a few years now. Her Banktoun trilogy remains one of my favourite crime series ever, and her standalone novels have all been thrilling and original. 

Substitute is another tense and quite chilling story from this really talented author. She takes one simple but very complex question and puts it to her main character, and as readers, we too will contemplate just what we might do in similar circumstances. 

Chrissie opens her front door to a man she doesn't recognise. Her knows her full name and he asks her if she's ever experienced grief. These words alone send Chrissie into a panic. She's spent many years grieving for her mother, and in a way, for her father who she is estranged from. The recent birth of her daughter Holly triggered the PTSD that her mother's death created and she's really struggling. 

Vulnerable and scared, Chrissie then signs up to an experiment that the stranger describes to her. She can prevent the deaths of three people of her choice. In repayment she must choose three people to die in their place. 

Most of us would turn and run when presented with such an idea, and in fact, two other women that Joseph Marshall; the man at the door, has approached have done just that. However Chrissie is damaged and frightened. She fears loss most of all, her life has been ruined by tragic loss and now that she's a mother, she is determined to protect her daughter, at any cost. 

The author takes us back to summer 1980, where we meet Michael, a scientist working on what could be a world changing drug. However, Michael is uneasy about how the project is progressing. His colleague and friend Edward seems to be swayed more by money and fame, than by science and the involvement of suits from the MoD increasingly worry him. 

This is a cleverly structured story that gradually gives up its secrets. Skipping back and forth from Chrissie's present-day predicament to the ongoing work of Michael, we slowly but surely realise just why Chrissie was selected to take part.

Substitute is clever. It's a techo-thriller, filled with science and also with single-minded people who will stop at nothing to create what they want. The author sensitivity examines the effects of grief and trauma, and how a damaged, flawed mind will impact on decisions made, with sometimes shattering effects. 

The most frightening thing about this story is how plausible it is. How many of us really know what is being created in secret labs around the world? How do we know just how far governments will go to achieve their aims?

Once more, Susi Holliday has produced a book that will thrill and keep the reader on their toes. Highly recommended from me. 

Susi Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years before she started writing. 
A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. 
She is the bestselling author of eight novels and a novella, several of them written as SJI Holliday. Along with three other female authors, she provides coaching for new crime writers via www.crimefictioncoach.com. 

You can find out more at her website, www.susiholliday.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SJIHolliday, on Twitter @SJIHolliday, and on Instagram @susijholliday.

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