Book #70

The Imposter by Anna Wharton

The lives of others have always fascinated newspaper archivist Chloe. And when she comes across a cutting of a little girl who went missing twenty-five years ago, she is moved by the unwavering devotion of the child’s parents and their belief that their daughter will one day return.
Meanwhile, news that her beloved Nan, the only family she has left, must move into a nursing home, leaves Chloe distraught and soon to be homeless. So when the missing girl’s parents advertise for a lodger, Chloe sees this as a sign – a new home and the perfect opportunity to investigate the case. But it’s not long until she realises the couple aren’t all they seem from the outside.

This was incredible.

Chloe is a newspaper archivist and a lonely soul. She’s someone who blends in, the wallflower you never notice. The only person she has at home, her nan, is succumbing to the potency of dementia. The stresses of life weigh on Chloe heavily, and when she finds cuttings detailing the disappearance of a child in 1979, she becomes enthralled with the emotion involved in such a case.

We follow Chloe through her obsessive journey in finding more information on the disappearance, watch her tracking down the parents, see her descend into a mist which will not allow her to see anything else. Small details of Chloe’s life are peppered throughout the pages, cleverly, subtly, and we begin to see she’s fraught with problematic thoughts.

Wharton deals with some seriously sensitive topics here, and she does so brilliantly. The emotions involved with a missing child are complex, horrifying, but mostly tragic. The way the child’s mother is characterised felt deeply realistic, her heartbreak was palpable, and her unwavering hope ran through her like a sickness. Wharton contrasts this immediate vanishing of a family member with a disappearance all the more subtle - a loss by dementia. 

The pace is excellent, the suspense masterful, and I found myself entirely glued to Wharton’s words. She has a skill for setting and slowly increasing tension. There were some real terrifying moments where my heart was in my throat, but throughout the entire story I was on edge, as though I were on a tightrope. It was so wonderfully evocative, so original, and the twistiness was delicious.

It’s impossible to believe this is a debut novel, and equally as impossible to put into words how engaging and brilliant Wharton’s story is. Set your alarms for April 2021.