Blog Tour: Book Review, Extract & UK Giveaway - Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Elizabeth Heathcote's Undertow. On my stop, I'll be sharing my review and an extract from the book, as well as the chance to win a hardback copy of the novel. (UK ONLY). Exciting, right? 

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
My husband's lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them... until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of 'second wife'. She knows she'll always live in the shadow of another woman - not Tom's first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night.

But Carmen can overlook her husband's dead mistress... until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killer her.

Chapter 1
Paula had every light on in the kitchen. It was nearly June but gloomy, raining and cold, miserable weather even for England. She would have been happy to stay indoors all day, but the dog was getting restless and he’d have to be walked. She pulled on her wellies and cagoule and went back to the cloakroom for a scarf.
It was half-term and the children were watching TV, still in their pyjamas at twelve. Paula’s dad was upstairs fixing the light in Cheyenne’s bedroom. She shouted up to let him know that she was going and then put her head round the living-room door. ‘I’m taking the dog out,’ she said. ‘Granddad’s upstairs.’ The children were side by side on the settee, a blanket pulled over their knees, their bodies barely touching. They didn’t look up. ‘Hello?’ she said. ‘Shh!’ said Charlie, her boy, his eyes fixed on the screen. ‘Did you hear me? I’m taking the dog out and—’ ‘Mum! I heard.’ She tutted and closed the door, her lips spelling out what she’d like to have said as she searched for her keys in the pile of scarves and gloves and school books by the front door. Then she heard a shout. ‘Wait, Mum, I’m coming!’
Cheyenne, her little girl, came running through. ‘You want to? It’s raining.’ ‘I know, Mummy, I want to come with you.’ ‘Get dressed quickly then.’ Cheyenne scrambled upstairs, still climbing on hands and knees at four. Paula smiled after her and picked up the dog’s lead without thinking and of course Roxy heard and went wild, bounding into the hall and jumping up at her over and over again, barking and snapping with excitement. The next few minutes were chaos, trying to calm him and to hurry Cheyenne, to get her shoes and coat and hat on with the dog jumping round them. By the time Paula opened the front door she felt frazzled.
The dog tore through the yard and into the street, crazy for the air and freedom. The drizzle closed around him and drove him wilder, as though it harboured spirits that only he could hear. He twisted and leaped and snapped, then disappeared into the mist, around the corner and on to the beach. Cheyenne ran after him, and Paula set off too, but then she realised she had forgotten the dog’s ball. She paused for a minute, watching her daughter run ahead, but there was no road to cross, and Cheyenne and the dog both knew every inch of that beach, so she hurried back into the house to pick up the ball.
When she came out again the street was empty. She ran round the corner, across the lane that served the old seafront cottages. No one was around so she took the short cut through one of the gardens, with its driftwood bench and tufts of dry grass clinging to the pebbles, then jumped over the low fence on to the beach.
Her steps were loud against the pebbles. She stopped for a minute, squinting through the drizzle for her daughter and her dog, and the weather shrouded her in a perfect silence. She couldn’t see any movement, couldn’t see anything more than twenty metres ahead.
‘Cheyenne,’ she called, and stepped forward. Her foot on the stones was too loud in the void where her daughter’s voice, or someone else’s, or anything normal should have been. She felt the stab of panic that came whenever she let Cheyenne out of her sight, that moment of terror she almost teased herself with before her daughter inevitably appeared again.
‘Cheyenne.’ She pulled her hood off to listen better. Moisture gathered on her face. ‘Cheyenne.’ She ran a few paces. ‘Cheyenne!’
The beach fell away here, from the high-tide mark, a slope of pebbles that got steeper in the winter storms, as the sea pounded it into a wall. Her feet sank deep into the loose shingle. She started along the top, not sure which way they would have gone, reluctant to drop down to the harder, sandier ground left by the retreating tide. She could move quicker down there but she could see further from up here.
She forced her feet on. ‘Cheyenne!’

Dark, disturbing and absolutely compelling in every way possible, Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote was a novel that, once started, I didn't dare to put down. It follows the story of Carmen, wife to lawyer Jack and step-mother to his three children, who becomes curious about the alleged drowning of Zena, a previous girlfriend and the woman who ended Jack's previous marriage to the mother of his children, Laura. The progression of the novel is driven by a number of chilling and terrifying discoveries that Carmen makes as she begins to delve deeper into Tom's past, her curiosity ever-growing. With twists and turns aplenty, and shocking revelations rearing their head at every moment, as well as journeys down paths Carmen had never intended to tread upon, this novel took me in and held me captive while the past unravelled and tangled with the present in the most electrifying of ways.

Heathcote begins Undertow in a grim but attention-grabbing way, three years prior to when we meet Carmen, as the body of a dead woman is found, washed up on the beach in St Jude's, a small and gossipy seaside village. Following on from this discovery made by Paula and her young daughter while out walking the dog, Heathcote then brings readers back to the present day, and we're introduced to Carmen. I really enjoyed learning about her marriage to Tom, however unsettling it began to become, as well as Tom's children and his ex-wife Laura. It wasn't hard to notice the slight discordance that simmered beneath the surface though. I was unable to put my finger on what exactly was causing this, but I was aware of something just not being right between them. There were small hints and mentions of a temper that had previously risen up in Tom, and I found myself wondering if I'd be witness to it at some point in the novel. It didn't sit right with me at all and added a certain sense of foreboding to the novel that remained right the way through, heightening my senses to anything and everything that happened.

Zena's existence took a hold of Carmen, especially when she began down the path of finding out more about the woman Tom had once been with. It was intense, grimly captivating and I became completely absorbed in figuring out the truth behind Zena's last day alive. I adored how Heathcote very slowly revealed the truth, not only to me as the reader but to Carmen as well. It was obsessive almost, but I could understand her interest at the same time. It didn't help that Tom, whenever asked about Zena and what had happened to her, seemed reluctant to give anything away. This is when Carmen really believes that something is amiss, and decides to take matters into her own hands. She becomes a detective almost, unable to stop herself from going through her husband's laptop, emails and archives to find the answers she's so desperately looking for.

It becomes compulsive for Carmen, to uncover the truth, and I was wrapped up entirely in the mystery behind Zena's death and the reluctance on Tom's part to tell Carmen the whole story about what happened on that fateful day. It was dark and disturbing, frightening at times, but on the whole a riveting and mysterious story about the past and how, even in the present day, it has a way of catching up with you. I was engrossed from beginning to end, constantly kept on my toes as Heathcote lead the way to a tremendous, adrenaline-inducing ending that had me catching my breath. Zena, although dead, played an incredibly prominent role in this novel, a role that felt ghostly and dominated Carmen's life till the very end.

Becca's Books is awarding Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote with five of my bookish stars. I read this at breakneck speed, hungry for the mystery to unravel so that I could put the pieces of such a compelling puzzle together. From beginning to end, I was fascinated and felt a sense of loss when I turned the final page. Overwhelmingly tense, I felt unable to breath when the truth was unveiled. What a read.


About the author
Elizabeth Heathcote worked as a feature writer and editor on newspapers and magazines for many years before writing her first novel, Undertow. Her jobs have included women’s editor and deputy features editor at the Independent on Sunday, as well as freelance writing for publications such as the Independent, Observer, Guardian and Marie Claire. She is presently associate editor at Psychologies magazine.

You can find Elizabeth Heathcote on Twitter

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