There was something about the premise of The Imposter that immediately grabbed my attention. The thought of this woman, Chloe, living a quiet life working in a newspaper archive (a job I imagine to be quite solitary) and living with her Nan, but becoming embroiled in a story she came across at work, that of a 4 year old girl, Angie, who went missing 25 years ago and has never been seen since. Something about this story makes her unable to let go of it.

I feel like this is a book of three parts. The first part is quite calm as we follow Chloe going to and from her desk and see her trying to look after Nan who has dementia. Then the tension really goes up a gear from just before the halfway mark when Chloe, through a series of quite unexpected events, ends up living with the missing girl’s parents, Maureen and Patrick. I found at this point I was whipping the pages by as quickly as I could, desperate to know what was going to happen next. The historical ‘crime’ intermingles in a quite unsettling way with the current day story. And then there’s the finale which held some surprises as it didn’t turn out as I expected (in a good way).

Although there’s a strong plot, I think this is a more character-driven story that looks at loss and loneliness and how those emotions manifest themselves. The characterisations are really effective and I felt like I was right there in the story.

The Imposter is a fabulous debut from Anna Wharton. There’s such a sense of unease about it with oppressive settings that pop off the page and add to that feeling. At times I was thinking to myself, “what on earth are you playing at, Chloe?” as my heart thudded away, but then not everything is as it seems in this story and that’s where its power comes from. I flew through this 400 page book, totally engrossed in the quiet, yet gripping, action. I thought it was excellent.

Reviewed by Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes

Published by Mantle, 01/04/2021
Hardback, ISBN 978-1529037395