This review is written with thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for my copy of Dear Amy.
Margot Lewis is a teacher at a local school, who moonlights as "Amy", the agony aunt for the local paper. One day, she receives a letter from Bethan Avery, a girl who was kidnapped and presumed dead in 1998, begging her for help. It seems genuine, and Bethan's case bears similarities to the case of Katie Browne, a pupil at the school where Margot teaches. Can Margot discover what really happened to Bethan, and find the person who has kidnapped Katie before it is too late?
The premise of Dear Amy is innovative, and one that appealed to me. At the beginning of the novel, Callaghan managed to pique my interest with the development of Bethan's case, as I wanted to know what had happened to her. However, as the novel progressed, I felt that this level of interest was not maintained. There is a twist in Dear Amy, and whilst I acknowledge and admire Callaghan's bravery in attempting to implement this, I found it necessary to suspend my belief in light of the revelation, and this made it difficult for me to connect with the characters, especially Margot, and empathise with them.
Dear Amy is set in Cambridge, and Callaghan creates a strong sense of place throughout the novel. Although I am not familiar with the locations in Dear Amy, the descriptions afforded to the setting were very detailed and helped me to build a picture of the surroundings in which the novel takes place.
The subject of mental health is central to the plot of Dear Amy, and I appreciate Callaghan's recognition that this issue deserves more exploration in literature. However, at times, some of the references to Margot's mental health were quite stereotypical; for example, her ex-husband asking if she had taken her medication when she became angry. Although this is later justified by the plot, I felt that by the time this became clear, the plot had reached a stage where I found the developments difficult to believe, and therefore was unable to fully appreciate Margot's symptoms. In view of this, I would have liked the issues to have been explored in more depth from the outset.
Overall, I was slightly underwhelmed by Dear Amy, and it is unfortunate that, for me, it did not live up to its original promise.
Dear Amy is available from Amazon.