Happy Contemporary Thursday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. I heard a huge amount of hype about this book last year, so I've been looking forward to reading it.
Unfortunately, this just wasn't my thing. Tina Seskis has written a book with an intriguing first and second act, but it falls apart by act three.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: January 27th 2015 by William Morrow & Company (first published April 7th 2013)
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss (
An intriguing premise with an enigmatic heroine, Seskis writes a mystery that will keep readers completely engaged through the first two acts, with some room for debate in the third act.
A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?
Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past—or her own memories.
And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she's done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .
I've been hearing about One Step Too Far for months now. Friends on the other side of the pond (a.k.a. London town) have been raving about Tina Seskis's writing, and even notoriously tough newspapers like The Guardian referred to the book as "stunning" and a "gripping" psychological thriller.
So I went into this book with sky-high expectations, only to find myself…disappointed.
The premise of One Step Too Far is an intriguing one. We're introduced to Emily Coleman on the morning that she makes the decision to walk out of her life, and board a train to London. She has almost nothing to her name, and we quickly learn that she's left behind a husband and a family home for reasons that remain unclear.
From the very first page, Seskis skillfully pulls readers into the mystery, making readers wonder just what Emily is up to, and what has pushed her to this point. Even as she settles into her new (and slightly dingy) home, completely with a quirky new best friend named Angel and equally odd housemates, Emily still gives off the vibe of someone who's running from her past.
Seskis unfolds that past as the book continues, interspersing London-Emily's growing career, with flashbacks showing how Emily was once a woman with a troubled twin sister, making her way in the world with a doting husband and a young son. Readers see pre-London Emily was repeatedly put down by her twin throughout all major life milestones, and how the troubled relationship had begun damaging Emily. Eventually, all of this comes to head, when readers realize just what eventually drove Emily to flee, and how it tied back to her previous life.
While Seskis's writing remains solid throughout the book, it's her characters and plotting that eventually made the book a let-down to read. Because of the way the book is structured, we don't really get a sense of who pre-London Emily was, or who London-Emily is - instead, we get fifty percent of both sides of the story. Even as we see London-Emily succeeding in her life, there's no excitement or genuine joy, because we don't have the full story of what she was running from.
Moreover, because of the way the book was structured, we don't really get to see what makes Emily's twin or her family tick. Instead, we see a lot of terrible behavior by a variety of people without justification or cause, and it makes the overall storyline - including the eventual twist - less compelling as a result.
However, it's the final few chapters of the third act that really pushed me over from a "Ok, this still isn't so bad," to a "Dude, what is this?".
Seskis puts Emily in a situation that ultimately forces her to come clean, but it's not without kicking her down a few more notches in the process. Emily is humiliated in a way that felt both melodramatic and unnecessary, and just made me feel bad for her as a character. I was definitely left with a feeling of wondering just what all of this was for, which is not something I like typically associated with my thrillers.
However, the story fell apart by the third act, and ultimately left me with more questions than answers. There was a general feeling of "…that was it?", which is something that I think that many readers don't want to feel at the end of a mystery or a thriller novel.
With that being said, I think that readers can still appreciate Seskis' buildup, and the hints of the background story that she's composed for Emily. Seskis definitely comprehends the positives and negatives of human nature at a level that many novelists would envy, and I'm looking forward to see how she puts this skill to use in A Serpentine Affair.
About the author:
Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, England, and after graduating from Bath University spent more than twenty years working in marketing and advertising. One Step Too Far is her debut novel, and was published independently in the UK, where it shot to the #1 spot on the bestseller list. Her second novel, A Serpentine Affair, is forthcoming. She lives in North London with her husband and son.