HarperCollins | 2017 (7 September) | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
When an old friend, Rachel, gets in touch with Sarah Havenant for the first time in years, she asks Sarah a very odd question – which of Sarah’s two Facebook accounts is the one to friend? Sarah only has the one. When Sarah takes a look she’s shocked to find that this other account has photos of her husband Ben and their children, even a couple taken over the last day or two. The posts sound like Sarah wrote them, they contain the mundane details of her life that only she should know. Sarah’s family and friends, including a police officer, are concerned but it’s difficult to know what she should do. And then, just when she’s ready to put it out of her mind, it escalates – emails, purchases made from her Amazon account, and more. It’s around this time that Ben begins to think that perhaps the impossible is true – is Sarah doing this to herself?
Copycat is the third stand alone psychological thriller by Alex Lake and I’ve enjoyed all of them. They each feature an intriguing female protagonist who has the ground swept away from under her feet. We’re never quite sure what is happening and these women certainly don’t. And it puts everyone around them into the same dark place as the main character sinks further into herself, questioning everything around them. Sarah is a fine example of this. Her own identity is being eroded for reasons she can’t fathom until she even doubts her own sanity.
Social media is becoming increasingly appealing to authors of psychological thrillers and it’s used well here, expanding on the theme of identity fraud. I’ve had experience of this and so I found the way that this story develops particularly frightening. It certainly keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.
There are elements of the story that I found quite hard to accept. I don’t want to give anything away but I did have trouble with the reasons for why all of this is happening. So while the first half is thoroughly absorbing and tense, scary even, this is dissipated in the second half (at least for me) as it is all explained. Nevertheless, even though this isn’t my favourite of the three, I enjoy Alex Lake’s writing very much. I like the ways in which his stories undermine the everyday lives of his main protagonists and affect those around them. Life is a frightening place in the world of Copycat. As Sarah becomes more and more afraid, she finds threats everywhere, but which are real and which are red herrings are not easy to separate. It leaves Sarah with nowhere to go. And it is fascinating and thrilling to watch.