SAY YOU’RE SORRY is the fifth novel to feature clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin who, at the beginning of the story, has sworn off police work and returned to his clinical practice. Of course there wouldn’t be a crime novel if that were the case for long and the device with which he is drawn back into police work is skilfully deployed. Joe is asked to ensure that the questioning of a troubled young man police think responsible for a brutal double murder and arson attack does not go too far. But Joe is unconvinced the suspect had the ability to pull of such an attack and is increasingly intrigued by the possible connection of this case to the disappearance three years earlier of two teenage girls, Piper Hadley and Natasha ‘Tash’ Barnes. Although they were unrelated to the Barneses, the couple killed in the attack which the suspect is in custody for lived at the farmhouse where Tash was living with her family when she disappeared.
This story is told from two points of view. It’s done fairly conventionally from Joe’s perspective as the investigations into both the present-day case and the re-opened case of the disappearance of Piper and Tash unfold. Joe is struggling to make sense of the disparate facts, convince police they don’t have all the answers tied up neatly with their suspect and juggle his family commitments. Separated from his wife Joe is meant to be looking after their teenage daughter Charlie during the period of this book and when he can’t give full attention to the case and his daughter things inevitably go awry. Happily Joe’s old friend, retired police detective Vincent Ruiz, can offer practical help with the case and his personal problems.
Piper Hadley’s ‘journal’ (notes scribbled in notebooks and whatever paper she can find while in captivity) provide the second, far more harrowing, point of view for the story. Readers don’t know if she is still alive but we do know she was alive for at least some time after her disappearance and that she did not run away with her best friend as police suspected at that time. She and Tash were taken by a man they call George and, over the course of the novel, we learn about the circumstances in the girl’s lives that enabled the kidnapping to take place and the grim time they’ve had since being taken. I have to acknowledge this portion of the novel is well-written, really capturing the essence of the teenage girl’s perspective, but it’s also quite confronting and, at times, hard going. I had the added bonus (?) of listening to the words being expertly read by one of my favourite voice actors, Seán Barrett, who helped make Piper’s story a truly chilling one. But even in print form I’d suggest this is not a book for the faint of heart.
I’ve found this series to be a bit of a hit or miss affair, having really liked the first two books and been progressively less intrigued by their successors. I think this is partly due to my developing more of an interest in reading about the more realistic crimes that happen when ‘normal’ people get into tight corners than in ‘serial killers making suits of human skin’ type stuff. So for me this book was a return to the earlier form I liked so much, focusing on the victims and their families and what on earth can have gone wrong to provide circumstances in which the utter disappearance of two teenagers is accepted as something they chose to do. I’m still not sure I really ‘bought’ the ending and who the perpetrator turned out to be but that almost didn’t matter as the heart of the book – Tash and Piper’s story – was very believable.
Publisher: Hachette Digital 
Length: 12 hours 4 minutes
Format: audio book (mp3)
Source: I bought it
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