Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an advance review copy of this book.
Title: Don’t Turn Around
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Release Date: 24th April 2015
A strange thing happened as I was reading the final chapters of Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell, a self-proclaimed ‘Dark, Thrilling, Page-Turner of a Crime Novel’ on the tube. I got so absorbed in the endgame that I didn’t just manage to miss the station I was to get off at but I missed three of them. I had to rush off the train and double back on myself, but I didn’t really mind as it gave me more time to read. A book has never done that to me before, and while Don’t Turn Around is definitely flawed, the good shines through and makes you forget the bad ever existed.
Don’t Turn Around follows DC Jennifer Knight in the south England town of Haven. The plot begins quietly enough when she and her partner Will are called in to investigate a stabbing. Soon though, it is revealed that something is amiss, and that something may not be merely mortal. When more killings happen, Jennifer finds that they are linked and she has a personal connection with the case.
The plot takes place in the present following Jennifer and Will and in the past, following a boy named Frank who has a incredibly broken home life and turns to violence. In the early stages of the novel, it was interesting to see these two narratives run alongside each other, with only the most tentative of links between them. It becomes obvious quite quickly how they are linked, but I found it a good way of telling the story nonetheless. And even when the reader is told what happens in the past, before the past chapter, I still found Frank’s story compelling enough that I didn’t mind the retelling.
Jennifer is an immensely likeable protagonist. A strong, independent woman who has a troubled past and a link to the paranormal. It is never actually stated exactly what relationship she has with spirits. She seems to be able to hear ghosts but not actively. It might have helped to narrow down exactly what her psychic powers were and what she could do with them. The genesis of these powers (or at least when they grew stronger) though is highly original and inventive, and the scenario Mitchell uses to put Jennifer in contact with the evil side of the spirit world, gives the character a darker layer to explore. This never makes the character unappealing however. She is a great creation, with enough strength and wit to muscle in amongst other female heroines of her ilk.
The characterisation is largely great here. Mitchell has done a great job of giving the major players their own personalities and quirks. Jennifer is, as mentioned before, immensely likable, Will is the one to root for (but who never gets the girl), the shadowy Ethan is a slimeball, Frank is a compelling villain. Subsidiary characters don’t come off so well, and it may have been better to thin their numbers out slightly. Readers may have trouble discerning between Steph, Susie and Shelly, although this may just be a naming problem.
Another rather distinct issue is the point of view. Our protagonist is Jennifer Knight, and overall she does get the majority of time in the forefront of the narrative, however the reader may sometimes feel like a celestial being themselves, flying in and out of everyone’s point of view with a rapid pace. One moment we hear what Jennifer’s thinking, and then Will’s, and then Susie’s and then back to Jennifer. It is slightly jarring and makes some chapters a little difficult to understand. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to place the whole thing in Jennifer’s point of view (with the past Frank point of view as well).
These things seem rather big gripes, but when I was in the flow of the story, I was having a great time with Don’t Turn Around. And that’s really what’s important after all. The overall experience was immensely enjoyable, and that’s not quantifiable in any real way. The soul of Don’t Turn Around is really rather wonderful, and Mitchell seems to have a great confidence in keeping you in your seat while she tells the story. The writing is strong and pacey. In it’s best moments Don’t Turn Around reminded me of Sharon Bolton’s writing.
Don’t Turn Around is very obviously the start of a series for DC Jennifer Knight, and the ending of the book doesn’t hide that fact. It sets in motion a few plot lines that are begging to be explored while also managing to be a successful wrapping up of all that has come before. And by the time the ending comes around, you will no doubt want more. I know that I do.
Though flawed, Don’t Turn Around is a great first outing for supernatural Detective Jennifer Knight. It says on the front ‘A Dark, Thrilling, Page-Turner of a Crime Novel’ and I find it hard to disagree.
Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell gets 4/5.
Don’t Turn Around will be released on 24th April 2015. You can pre-order the book now at
Amazon UK : http://amzn.to/1CYo1Ob