Review: The Dare by Lesley Kara

The Dare by Lesley Kara is her third crime novel but is perhaps her best. Gripping and tense from beginning to end, it is everything a suspense novel should be.

Even as an adult Lizzie is troubled. She has a past that she is trying desperately to forget but then a child tragically dies on a railway crossing and the memories come flooding back.

Lizzie never really did fit in at school. The girls were mean and the boys teased but for some reason Alice Dawson, one of the more popular girls, like her and they soon became inseparably. It wasn’t necessarily a friendship understood by the other kids in their class and it was certainly not a relationship wholly approved of by their parents but that didn’t stop them.

One of their favourite past times was to go on long walks while the weather was nice, with one in particular taking two hours and meant that they had to cross over the open railway line. Unfortunately, their obsession with this route would lead to a disastrous end.

On this one particular day Alice was in a tormenting mood; she did this from time to time knowing that it wound Lizzie up. Surely Lizzie had a right to feel insecure though; her best friend was, after all, far more popular and pretty and it irked her far more than she would ever like to admit.

“Suddenly, I hate Alice Dawson. I hate her because she isn’t telling me something.

I hate her because she is pretty and doesn’t wear glasses or have frizzy red hair

or epilepsy. I hate her so much I can barely breathe.” (Page 9)

In her head Lizzie is jealous. She is sure that the secret has something to do with Dave Farley, the boy who would never show any interest in her even though she desperately wills him to notice her. The problem is Alice isn’t telling, she is just wandering around with an annoying smirk on her face.

That is until they reach the train tracks and everything goes black for Lizzie.

When she comes around she is greeted with an all-too-familiar feeling: one where she is dazed and confused plus she has wet herself. Embarrassed she looks around for Alice and that’s when the realisation hits her.

While she was having a seizure, a train has come to a standstill on the tracks and her best friend is nowhere to be seen.  That is until she looks towards a tree and sees part of the denim jacket she was wearing and…is that part of her arm?

Devastated, Lizzie’s subconscious blocks everything out. When asked about the accident, it’s not that she doesn’t want to answer the questions, but she doesn’t know how to; she can’t remember anything that happened either on the build up to or during her fit.

Alice’s school friends and even her family take this as a sign of guilt. Lizzie was always jealous so perhaps she pushed her and is now using her epilepsy as an excuse. The worst thing is that Lizzie genuinely cannot remember. They do say that you block traumatic experiences and on this occasion Lizzie is telling the truth – she cannot remember!

Twelve years on however, it seems that this latest train fatality has caused her memory to wake up. It starts with the nightmares returning; flashes of memory from that day, but these fragments don’t help. They don’t tell Lizzie what she is desperate to know – did she cause the accident? Did she kill her friend?

The Dare by Lesley Kara is an intense crime novel

The Dare

My Thoughts on The Dare

When I found out that Lesley Kara’s third book was being published I knew I needed to get hold of a copy. Her previous novels – The Rumour and Who Did You Tell? – were fantastic and so I had high hopes for The Dare. Lesley, you did not disappoint and in fact, I think it is the best one yet.

Lesley does an amazing job of capturing the reader’s imagination, making them believe they know what is going to happen next only to then be sent in another direction. It sounds strange, but surely that is the desire of any good crime writer – you want to be able to grip and entertain your audience until the very end. No one wants to be able to guess whodunit in the opening chapters surely?

In this particular novel, Lesley not only provides narration for the current storyline that features Lizzie and her loving fiancé Ross, but also retells a story from long ago so that the reader can piece together small fragments at a time. Interspersed with this narrative is a collection of memories or diary extracts that add further substance to the back story, although it is these snippets that also make you question whether you have really got a grasp on the story.

From the opening extract you get a sense of foreboding, a hint that all is not well in the world, yet Lesley holds just enough back to keep you from guessing what is going to happen next. As with all her novels, it is truly captivating from the beginning and completely addictive.  In a time where I have struggled to read, this one was just what I needed to kick start my motivation again.

Her writing is superb and as fellow book blogger Alice says:  “Her writing is just so smooth – every sentence reads just as it should and you don’t get snagged by a discordant phrase or conversation at any point. Not a word is wasted as she leads you through the heart-thumping dramatic events and revelations of the story – some of which take you completely by surprise.”

As for the main character, I found I had a bit of a love-hate relationship going on with her. Did she kill her friend over something as silly as a school girl crush? Did she unfortunately fall victim to her illness? Will she ever be free of the blackouts, the nightmares and the claustrophobic lifestyle that has become the norm because her parents wrapped her up in cotton wool after the accident? Will she ever be able to move on or will she forever see herself as the victim, always mawkish in her outlook because of her past.

The Dare is an intense suspense story full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. It is a tale where you will naturally suspect everyone of something sinister, where you believe no-one can be innocent.

If you are a crime fan and haven’t yet picked up a copy, I have to ask why? This is going to be one of the best new releases of 2021 guaranteed.

Have you read The Dare? Perhaps you have picked up one of Lesley Kara’s other novels and would like to share your views with others. Do you have other similar authors or novels you would recommend to those that enjoy Lesley’s work?

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The Dare is Lesley Kara's third crime novel and one of her best. This intense drama unfolds over a period of 12 years as we follow in the footsteps of Lizzie as she tries to discover whether she did in fact kill her best friend when they were kids. Read my full, honest view at @tbookjunkie

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