Emily Koch’s second novel Keep Him Close focuses on mother-son relationships and the dynamic between two women as they try to unravel what happened on a night out which goes very badly wrong.
Alice’s son is dead. Indigo’s son is accused of murder.
Indigo is determined to prove her beloved Kane is innocent. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda.
Alice can’t tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed – and she needs to make sure that Indigo’s efforts to free Kane don’t put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper?
Having loved Emily Koch’s debut, If I Die Before I Wake, I was keen to read more from her, and Keep Him Close didn’t disappoint.
Koch again limits her cast of characters to a small group and manages to ramp up a similar sense of jeopardy, with time running out to find answers to the core mystery. The action’s not restricted to a hospital room, as it was in Koch’s debut though, and this allows her characters more freedom to move around Bristol and beyond, propelling the action forward and making this novel feel less claustrophobic than its predecessor.
While the complexity of the mother-son relationships here is fascinating, it’s the dynamic between the two mothers, Alice and Indigo, each coping in her own way with the aftermath of that fateful night out their sons went on, which is key to what makes the book work so incredibly well.
Their unequal relationship serves to provide a unique perspective on Alice; we see her character and behaviour through Indigo’s eyes before she discovers who Alice actually is, and attaches any prejudice or pre-conceived ideas which we might have about her.
With Alice having the advantage of knowing who the other woman is far earlier than Indigo does, every encounter feels as if it’s the next play in an intense game of cat and mouse. The tension ratchets up as Alice risks her identity being discovered, going up a notch each time she bypasses an opportunity to come clean and tell the other woman who she is.
As we learn more about the mother-son relationships and the truth behind what happened on the night that irrevocably changed all their lives over the course of the book, Keep Him Close says so much about why things aren’t always the way they appear or how we imagine them to be, even when we think we know the person involved intimately or, at the very least, better than many others. It also demonstrates what a mother will do for her child, and the lengths to which she’d go for him, when others acting in a professional capacity fall far short. I know this reader’s sympathy went out to, and frequently alternated between each mother and son pairing.
Keep Him Close is a convincing character study and a tense psychological thriller; it’s well-written and persuasive domestic noir and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you.
Keep Him Close by Emily Koch is published by Harvill Secker, a Vintage imprint. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive instead where each purchase you make helps to support your local independent bookshop. For more on Emily Koch and her books, check out her Author Website, her Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.