Rebound, by Aga Lesiewicz, is a tense and tightly written psychological thriller set in and around Highgate in London. Its protagonist, Anna, is a thirty-something, single female who enjoys a successful career in the media. With no partner and no children she offers the reader a refreshing glimpse of a woman living a life of her choosing, whose only real tie is her much loved dog. This is not a book that relies on gender stereotypes or cliché. Its characters are varied and rounded, as in life.
When the story opens, Anna is on the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend of three years. James is handsome, loving and successful but Anna has had enough. His previously endearing habits now irritate. When she meets with her best friend, Bell, to drink and discuss what she has done, Bell advises her to stay single for a time, not to rebound into the arms of the first available replacement as she has been wont to do in the past.
Anna unwinds by running, usually on Hampstead Heath which is close to her home. When she observes two men enjoying an assignation in the bushes she starts to fantasise about such an encounter.
She follows an habitual route on her runs and starts to notice a handsome stranger running the same paths. She shocks herself by playing out her fantasy. When the local news outlets report details of rapes on the heath she worries that she has somehow triggered these awful events. Her rational side recognises how unlikely this would be but nagging doubts remain.
Anna has good friends in whom she confides. She also starts to meet neighbours when one returns her dog, found wandering in the road despite being left secured in her garden. There are other unexplained occurrences: her car is vandalised; roses are left outside her front door. With the added pressures of overseeing major restructuring at work she has little time to consider her continuing interest in the handsome stranger.
Anna is required to travel to Paris on business. While she is away tragedy strikes and she returns home to find herself implicated in a murder investigation. Her personal space has been invaded; nowhere feels safe.
The darkness of the woods, emptiness of the heath, and the pounding of Anna’s feet as she runs, provide a dark and tense backdrop to this fast paced tale. As the reader tries to guess which of the characters may be capable of the heinous crimes being committed, a brooding fear seeps in.
The denouement does not disappoint. The darkness is exposed with minimal contrivance.
A deftly put together thriller that benefits from the inclusion of Anna. It is rare to be offered a fictional woman who makes her own choices – professional, sexual and personal – without regrets. Woven around Anna is a compelling plot that avoids condemning her chosen lifestyle. She is allowed to be female and independent whilst enjoying liaisons and relationships on her own terms.
This was a highly enjoyable read; a fine thriller, well written, that I devoured in a sitting. Recommended.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Macmillan.