Disclaimer by Renee Knight
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The disclaimer has a neat, red line through it. A message she failed to notice when she opened the book. There is no mistaking the resemblance to her. She is a key character, a main player.
Imagine if the next thriller you opened was all about you reads the tagline for this highly rated psychological thriller. A Sunday times bestseller, book of the month in a number of bookshops and being advertised everywhere I turned. To say that the tagline had me intrigued is something of an understatement. The simple idea of somebody revealing your deepest darkest secrets in a novel that the whole world could read is terrifying and sent chills running down my spine.
When I started reading this I really wasn’t sure what to think. Initially I naively believed that this was going to be a throwaway thriller which taunted you with a piece of information you didn’t know and strung you along for 300+ pages before a disappointing reveal. It took me about 40 or 50 pages before it really started to interest me fully. I started reading this on the same evening that I finished reading Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn and I think this may well have more to do with me struggling to get into the story than the writing itself. My head was still swimming with 1950s America and the memories of my own time spent in the Wexford area. However, I pushed through and kept reading and soon found myself enthralled in this emotional rollercoaster. I am so glad that I did.
It’s very hard to talk about the plot of this one without giving anything away that might spoil the ending so I will avoid talking too much about plot specifics here. The general idea is that one of the main characters, Catherine, has started to read a novel that she finds on her bedside table only to realise that the story is about her and a secret which she has kept for many years and was unaware of anyone else knowing. I really don’t want to go too much more into it than that as it really would become a minefield of potential spoilers.
This novel is beautifully paced. There are many twists and turns and a whole lot of misdirection as the secret contained in the novel remains a closely guarded secret. However, there is so much more going on here than simply discovering the secret in the novel. The characters are wonderfully crafted and believable all the way through. The pacing of this book and your determination to discover the secret lures you in and then this tale will take you on one hell of a journey, not letting you go until it is finished. Who is in the right? Who is the bad person? This book will toy with your expectations all the way through, you will sympathise with all characters at some points and hate them all as well. Once it has grabbed you, this book will mess with your head right through till its final pages. Unrelenting, dark and deeply emotional, this is a stunning debut novel and I will be certain to look out for more books by Renee Knight in the future.
Everywhere I turn I seem to keep reading comparisons between Disclaimer, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I have only seen the big screen adaptation of Gone Girl but I have read The Girl on the Train and in my opinion Disclaimer is much better. The characters have a lot more depth, the plot keeps you guessing for longer and I enjoyed the way this one ended far more. A lot of thrillers seem to have a big reveal followed by a couple of pages which hint at what happens next. Disclaimer takes time after the big reveal to complete the story in full and doesn’t leave you feeling short changed but at the same time does not overstay its welcome.
I have to rate disclaimer as 5 out of 5. Disclaimer has set the bar very early on for me this year and all other thrillers will be judged by the standards this one has set. Intense, unpredictable and genuinely moving. Everything a good thriller should be.