Can Anybody Help Me? by Sinead Crowley


Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Synopsis: Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself. When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman? But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?


Review: My opinion of this book soared and plummeted at varying points. There were a couple of moments where I thought it was going to be another 5 star read, but it has just a few too many issues for that. For the most part, I think it's an excellent, well-written book. However there are some editing issues, and some unusual choices of adjectives (Eastern-European cheekbones, anyone?) which jar the prose somewhat in places.

On the flip side, this debut Irish author absolutely, beautifully captures modern Irish life, turns of phase, attitudes and culture. I've never read another contemporary novel that felt as authentically Irish as this one. It is frequently dotted with words and phrases like 'I'm grand', and 'for the craic'. It off-handedly references the financial state of the country, well known locations in Dublin and outside it, even has the 'Penneys, five euro' joke known to every living Irish woman. It is not a stereotypical expression of Ireland and its people, it is an accurate one. I love this book, for that.

There is a lot that I loved about the plot, particularly the central idea of online anonymity versus the amount of information we can reveal without realising. As a fond frequenter of forums since the age of fourteen, I loved reading the forum posts and I was genuinely creeped out by the realisation that someone posting on netmammies was clearly not who they claimed to be. The characters are relatively solid, though I liked TheFarmer and FarmersWife, brief as their appearances are, more than anyone else in the book.

I thought I had figured out the killer fairly early on, and I turned out to be wrong. I feel the explanation was so long-winded and complex, without any prior hints of its truth, that it's quite thin and not entirely credible. Additionally, I don't feel it wrapped up all the events of the novel as well as I'd like. That said, the thrilling journey more than makes up for it, and I tore through it in a single evening. Despite its minor flaws I found it to be an original and thoroughly compelling read and would definitely recommend it to mammies, internet addicts, and thriller fans in general.

Rating: 4/5

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