Even though I have a massive and ever growing TBR pile at home, I don’t always have the ‘right’ book in stock. If that makes sense. Sometimes, after a long day at work, I don’t feel the need for a ‘difficult’ book. Those days, I tend to throw myself at a dime a dozen thriller. And while thrillers are not my favorite genre (I love YA, contemporary fantasy and fantasy a lot more), they are soooo easy to read. So on a day like that, I browsed through the titles on my Kobo and bought He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I picked it solely on the blurb, since I hadn’t heard any buzz about this book yet.
So, what does the blurb say?
As ever, our friends at Goodreads provide the best summaries.
In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.
But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.
The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?
15 years later, Kit and Laura are living under assumed names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.
The reason this spoke to me the most, was because I actually witnessed the 1999 total eclipse. Though I wasn’t in Cornwall. I saw it, through a cloudy sky, near Liege in Belgium. And it was an event I will never forget. The clouds parted just when the eclipse started. It was so magical. Anyway, that was what spoke to me in the blurb for He Said/She Said. I also liked that this wasn’t the typical whodunnit thriller. There’s no police detective character or a body to be found. Something happened in the past and slowly, the reader finds out more and more…
Two timelines, two characters
He Said/She Said has two narrators at two different points in time. There’s one timeline starting in 1999, just before the total eclipse in Cornwall. This timeline slowly progresses into the future. Secondly, there’s the ‘now’ storyline, which takes place in 2015, also near to a solar eclipse. The main characters are Laura and Kit: a young couple who just got together in 1999 and are still going strong in 2015. Although it’s apparent something terrible happened somewhere in between these timelines. Laura and Kit use fake names, don’t have online profiles anywhere and Laura especially has anxiety issues.
In 2015, Laura is at home, heavily pregnant with twins, while Kit travels to the Faroe Islands to witness another total eclipse. All seems well, but there’s something/somebody haunting them. The girl they helped back in 1999, doesn’t seem who she was at first. And both Laura and Kit are terribly afraid they will run into here again, even though they’ve kept such low profiles. But what exactly happened? Why are they so scared? Who is this mysterious girl, Beth?
It’s one reason I set the crime during a total eclipse. We can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark.
It was nice to read a thriller that wasn’t the typical detective novel. It helps that He Said/She Said isn’t told chronologically. That way, the mystery about what happened stays a secret for quite some time. You want to learn what exactly happened, and the only way to do so is to read on. For me, the timeline in 2015 was less exciting than the 1999-onwards timeline. 2015 seems more boring, less eventful. Obviously though, the two timelines come together at some point.
Likeable characters are important
For me, the biggest issue I had with He Said/She Said is that I didn’t like either main character. I thought both Laura and Kit were very boring. And while you get to read from both their perspectives, I didn’t really learn anything about them that wasn’t important for the plot. Everything resolves around the Big Twist (which each thriller has, so this is hardly a spoiler), and it seems that the characters are too secretive for that reason. I didn’t like Laura and Kit and that made the book a less enjoyable read for me. I didn’t really care what would happen to them, though I still really wanted to know what happened in the past.
It would have been nice to get some perspective from two lesser characters I actually did like: Ling and Mac. These two actually felt more like flesh and bone than the main characters. And though it would obviously spoil pretty much everything, I still would have liked to read from the perspective of Beth.
So while the story races forward and the book is an enjoyable read, I don’t think this story will stay with me for very long. It wasn’t a great big reveal, and the last part of the book (for me) is a bit out of control. I did love how Erin Kelly did some great research, both into (rape) trials as into eclipses and eclipse hunters. Every detail about these felt very real.
He Said/She Said Conclusion
+ Original setting, with the story revolving around different solar eclipses.
+ High pace, as you want to know what exactly happened.
+ Great that there are two timelines to keep things interesting.
– Unlikeable main characters.
– The story spirals out of control during the last bit.