SHE by H C Warner: Addictive and arresting, this is Fatal Attraction for a new generation of readers - book review -

She
She

If you like a story with a bad girl lead player, then you won’t want to miss H C Warner’s wonderfully dark and devilishly entertaining tale of a family that is destroyed by one young man’s catastrophic mistake.

Still reeling from a painful break-up with his long-term girlfriend, Ben Gordon can’t believe his luck when the drop-dead gorgeous Bella breezes into his life.

Sexy and clever, she’s about as close to perfect as he could have hoped for, and it’s love at first sight for both of them. But Bella isn’t what she seems to be… and Ben is walking headlong into a terrifying nightmare.

If you like a story with a bad girl lead player – and bad girls don’t come more spine-chilling than the malevolent Bella – then you won’t want to miss H C Warner’s wonderfully dark and devilishly entertaining tale of a family that is destroyed by one young man’s catastrophic mistake.

Helen Warner, a former Head of Daytime at both ITV and Channel 4, is on her very best form in this gripping psychological thriller which will have you hooked from first page to last, and gasping for breath when you discover the final killer twist.

It’s only a matter of months since Charlotte, his girlfriend since their university days together, walked out on him and 30-year-old Ben, an advertising executive, is still bruised and vulnerable, and struggling to come to terms with the big gap in his life.

But as he shares a drink with best pal Matt in a London bar, Ben locks eyes with the ‘breathtakingly, head-turningly perfect’ Bella and has a ‘lightning bolt moment.’ And the feeling is mutual… Bella goes home with Ben that night and now she has never really left.

Sexy, impulsive and utterly captivating, Bella arrived in his life just when he needed her most. Soon, she is being introduced to Ben’s wealthy parents, Peter and Jo, who live in a grand house tucked away in the Suffolk countryside. Jo is delighted for Ben, but Peter is suspicious. ‘She’s like a ghost that just appeared out of nowhere.’

And before long, Ben’s family and friends have serious fears that Bella isn’t quite the ideal partner that Ben believes her to be. Bella wants him all to herself – because Bella has decided that everything is better when it is just the two of them.

The truth is that Bella’s manipulative, aggressive and increasingly violent behaviour is making it harder and harder for Ben to stay in touch with his loved ones and when a sudden death triggers a chain of disturbing events, there might be no way back for him....

SHE is a triumph of characterisation and suspense as Warner tells a tale of two halves (almost literally) as the dual narrative of first Ben, and then Bella, involves flipping over the book to read their different accounts, and the final, haunting legacy of their ill-fated relationship.

The too-good-to-be-true Bella turns out to be just that as Warner ratchets up the tension, exploring the cruel realities of emotional, verbal and physical abuse within the context of a searingly graphic story full of anger, menace and anguish.

Villainous and scheming, Bella is a truly nasty – but undoubtedly memorable ­– anti-heroine whose malign antics draw you into an intriguing, unsettling, twisting, turning story until that last shocking revelation hits all your expectations for six.

Addictive and arresting, this is Fatal Attraction for a new generation of readers.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)