Book Review

The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

the closer i get

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…

The Closer I Get is split into three parts.  The first focuses on the court case as author Tom accuses Evie of harassment.  From Tom, we hear how they interacted via social media with Evie championing his work even when the critics slated it, and how Evie gradually became aggressive, forcing Tom to block her.  This triggered further abuse from Evie, with aggressive tweets and emails that morphed into a hate campaign against him.  Evie gives a slightly different perspective on these events, but despite the element of he said / she said, the evidence against her is compelling.  That said, there were element of Tom’s behaviour and parts of his testimony that made me question his version of events.  While I thought he was more in the right than the wrong, there were elements that didn’t quite stack up to me.  Was this indeed a simple case of a fan becoming infatuated and subsequently frustrated when her affections weren’t reciprocated, or did Tom – perhaps unintentionally – encourage her?

Part two then moves on from the trial, and we see how both Tom and Evie cope with the verdict.  This section gives more insight into both characters, and to say that it’s enlightening doesn’t even begin to cover it.  The novel alternates between their two perspectives, allowing the reader to see both sides of the story.  Neither character is wholly sympathetic, and they are both flawed individuals, not that Tom would ever admit it!  Tom focusses more on the present, while we get more insight into Evie’s character as she reveals her background and more of her side of the story.  I liked the different formats used for each character, with Evie’s chapters taking the form of journal extracts written to Tom.   There’s clearly something not quite right about Evie, although the extent of this isn’t immediately apparent, and I thought that this sentence summarised her perfectly:

Me, who wouldn’t hurt a fly unless the fly really hurt me first

As the novel builds to its conclusion, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I loved the ending, even though it took me by surprise – Burston adds a perfect little twist at the end which was both pleasing and surprising.  The Closer I Get is a wonderful psychological thriller.  It’s a compelling novel and one that will make you think twice about who you interact with, and how you interact with them, via social media.

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