#FridayReads ‘The Book of You’ by Claire Kendal

claireClaire Kendal makes a smashing debut with the stalking thriller “The Book of You,” which will be published by Harper on May 6.

The suspense novel was the subject of a pre-publication bidding war and it only takes reading a few chapters to see why — Kendal sets up a terrifying, all-too-real scenario that keeps steadily escalating as we wonder what is going to happen to Clarissa, a London woman who becomes the obsessive love/hate object of a co-worker.

The title stems from the journal Clarissa keeps as evidence against Rafe, a professor at the university where the woman works as an administrator. Clarissa investigates possible legal action against a stalker and learns that keeping a journal and any physical evidence would be vital in any future prosecution.

The nightmare begins with Clarissa and Rafe having a bad date which ends in apparent sex at her place. She had quite a bit of wine to drink, Clarissa thinks, before it sinks in that she was probably drugged at the restaurant and hustled home in a semi-conscious state.
The woman tries to forget the incident, but Rafe acts as if they are romantic lovers and won’t let her be.

Kendal cleverly contrasts her protagonist’s situation with Clarissa’s jury service on a complicated sexual assault case. The woman thinks being away from work for the seven weeks of the trial will end the trouble with her co-worker, but he begins stalking her in an increasingly disturbing manner.

“The Book of You” keeps getting more sinister, as Clarissa hears about the mystery surrounding a woman Rafe dated earlier. He gets angrier and angrier when she won’t respond to his texts. emails and surprise appearances wherever she goes.

With stalking so much easier, and probably more frequent than it was 10 or 20 years ago, Kendal touches an Internet age nerve with this harrowing thriller.

Clarissa’s increasing loss of privacy and the fact that little can be done legally about a stalker before he or she does something violent, makes “The Book of You” almost unbearably suspenseful. I would imagine that most readers would finish the brilliantly constructed novel in one or two sittings.

Joe Meyers