Jodie, Hannah, Louise and Corinne plan a relaxing weekend away without their kids or husbands. It is Jodie’s turn to select the venue for the friends’ annual getaway and she’s chosen a newly renovated barn in the country town of Bald Hill, a short drive from Newcastle where the women all live. The weekend starts to go wrong when the women have a minor car accident on their drive to the barn, though this does provide the opportunity for them to meet Matt Wiseman, working at his father’s garage while recovering from injuries received in his job as a policeman. Though they do manage to squeeze in some some of the champagne-drinking and chocolate-eating they planned, the weekend turns very grim for the four friends when two men turn up at the barn and won’t leave.
A debut novel by a former journalist, Beyond Fear is a fast-paced psychological thriller and an easy read that I gobbled up in a single sitting. As a reader you know from the outset that something’s going to go wrong with the idyllic weekend but the author manages to build suspense by not taking the obvious route to peril and the lead up to the story’s turning point is very well done. The fact that two of the characters, Jodie and Matt, have secrets from their past that are likely to impact their behaviour in the dangerous circumstances which unfold here just adds to the tension because it is believable that they might do things the average person would not do. For me though the climax of the tension came a bit too early and though the author tried hard to maintain the suspense for the remaining half of the book it did become a little repetitive with long fight sequences and each woman taking her turn to have a mini meltdown before pulling herself together for the sake of her friends.
For the most part the characters were well-depicted and largely credible though I did want to shake both Matt and Jodie for constantly blaming themselves for what was happening. However the people generally behaved as people might in such circumstances and I thought Ford did a good job of depicting the villains of the piece, particularly towards the end where we got some real insight into the pair and what drove them (though we never got a sensible explanation for why they chose to enter the barn when they knew it was full of people given they’d had the same access to the site while it was empty but I suppose I can go with the flow on that one).
There is a lot to like about this thriller including its strong female characters and snappy pace. There’s also a nice hint of romance which, because it’s only a hint, I rather enjoyed. I did think the first half was stronger than the second in terms of suspense but overall it’s a solidly entertaining read.
My rating: 3/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website: http://www.jayefordauthor.com/
Publisher: Random House 
Length: 301 pages
Source: I bought it
Available at Amazon (for Kindle), Boomerang Books (paperback), Kobo Store (ePub),