By Ekta R. Garg
November 7, 2018
Release date: April 24, 2018
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A business owner finds herself being blackmailed by a prospective client. As the threats become more intense, she scrambles to make sense of them and learns that they may not be as random as she first thought. Mary Torjussen returns with another thriller and takes her readers through a refreshing turn of events in the cheer-worthy novel The Girl I Used to Be.
It’s taken Gemma Brogan years to establish her real estate business, but she’s doing it one client and one house at a time. Even in a challenging housing market not far from London, Gemma has found her footing. Her husband, Joe, stays at home with their son, Rory, and she works with people she likes and respects.
Gemma reaps the benefits of owning her own business, but she also works the hardest. The long hours often mean she doesn’t see Rory in the morning or get to put him to bed at night. She envies Joe’s relationship with Rory; when the three of them spend time together, Rory looks to Joe first.
She wants things to change, and when a potential client arrives in her office with a healthy housing budget Gemma thinks she’s received a prime opportunity. A big win on a home sale means she can breathe easy. It doesn’t hurt that the new client, David Sanderson, is tall, handsome, funny, and friendly. They spend the day together, and Gemma feels confident he’ll commit to one of the pricey homes they visited.
Not long after, Gemma runs into David during a work trip and the two spend the evening together over dinner and drinks. Years earlier Gemma experienced a horrible attack that convinced her never to drink to excess again, yet over dinner with David she finds herself loosening up in an effort to sway his decision about one of the properties. She drinks more than she meant to, more than she has in years, and the next morning she wakes up feeling awful.
The hangover doesn’t bother her as much as the complete lack of memories from the previous night. She doesn’t remember entering her room or going to bed. She has no clue when she and David bid one another good night, and she can’t shake the sense of dread that something terrible happened.
Then Gemma begins receiving pictures and videos of that night with David, select snapshots and clips that put her in compromising situations. Gemma is horrified and tries to contact David. Her efforts to find him fail, but she makes a connection with someone else from her past. As Gemma works with this new person to figure out what happened, she’ll find herself facing her worst fear and weaknesses.
Author Mary Torjussen comes back with a strong novel after last year’s Gone Without a Trace. In this new book, she lays down the foundation for what seems at first a typical thriller. In fact, some of the story elements do follow the tropes of the genre. Then, halfway through the story, Torjussen takes an unexpected detour.
Readers will love the twists as they come along. Gemma’s greatest ally starts out as her greatest enemy; even as the two form a relationship, readers may doubt with every step that they have actually become friends. It’s a sign of the genre as well as our current times that makes it difficult to believe two people on opposite sides of an issue can come together to fight the greater evil. Torjussen resists all temptation to take the cliché route and gives readers a protagonist they can root for all the way to the end.
Getting to that point takes a little bit of patience, however, because it comes halfway through the book. Gemma spends a reasonable amount of time questioning the reason for the pictures and videos, but she spends a little too much time wondering what to do. When the first major twist happens in the story, the pace picks up.
Once again Torjussen chooses first person point of view for her characters, but she’s improved the balance between internal dialogue and external events. Even as Gemma sits and thinks about how her life could possibly have reached this point, readers will get the sense that something is about to happen and it usually does. Despite her husband and office colleagues coming across as stock characters, Gemma herself is real and well-rounded.
All in all, I think readers will enjoy The Girl I Used to Be and recommend they Bookmark it!