Follow Me, by Angela Clarke
The novels I usually read tend to be more historical than anything, so settling into Angela Clarke’s first novel Follow Me was something of a departure for me. It’s bang up to date – all Twitter (which I use all the time) and Tinder (which, ahem, I don’t) and that sort of thing. It’s a very modern crime novel, with a ‘Hashtag Murderer’ using social media to keep the police guessing.
It’s also deeply grim. But in a brilliantly-written way. Yes, the descriptions of the bodies – it is a crime novel, after all – and the various goings-on had me cringing, but I seriously couldn’t put it down, even though I was (the total wuss that I am…) worrying about what I’d be reading about next. But really, I couldn’t put it down. I also couldn’t log back into Twitter without feeling just a teensy bit creeped out….
Freddie, the unlikely hero, is living on a grubby sofa in a rented flat, eking out a life as a (mostly unpaid) journalist and unhappy barista. She’s all about hair sticking up and out where it shouldn’t, impromptu hook-ups, and serious hangovers. Feisty, fragile, and fearless – except when she’s not. Glued to her phone – Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tinder, the lot. She’s bright, too – well-educated and under-employed. And she’s great. Although I’m not sure I’d want to party with her.
One thing I did genuinely love about this novel is the relationship between the two central characters, Freddie and Nasreen: both women, both differently tough, and in a relationship that it would be very tempting to bring to an easy and overly simplistic resolution – a temptation which Angela Clarke thankfully avoids. You know the Bechdel Test, which rates movies for having named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? Well, Follow Me would totally pass that with flying colours.
It’s a gripping read. Strong, evocative descriptions of place – you can actually smell the lobby of the police station – and people. Engaging characters, even the ones you won’t like. Loads of action. Even a bit of (admittedly quite dark) humour. Enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. And the murderer? Finding out who it was actually made me gasp.
Love a bit of crime? (Reading about it, not doing it – obvs.) Then give it a go. It’s a great read – fast and furious – but be warned: you’ll not look at Twitter quite the same way again.