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Book Review: ‘What Alice Knew’ by T.A. Cotterell

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today’s post will be a review of T.A. Cotterell’s brilliant debut novel ‘What Alice Knew’, ahead of my participation in the blog tour next week. On Monday 28th November, I’ll be participating in the blog tour, and will be posting an exclusive Q&A with the author. This will be my first ever blog tour, and I’m really excited to be backing such a brilliant debut. Make sure you check it out! So, here goes…







Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.


‘What Alice Knew’ is the exciting, thrilling debut novel by T.A. Cotterell. It’s due to be released as an eBook on December 1st, and will hit stores as a paperback on 20th April 2017. It’s one of the lead debuts for Penguin Random House/Transworld Books next year, and it’s clear to see why that is. Louise Voss stated “A beautifully-written debut. Keeps you turning the pages right up to the shock ending that will doubtless come as a complete surprise – one that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading…”

T.A. Cotterell studied History of Art at Cambridge University (which is clearly apparent in the writing of ‘What Alice Knew’!) He worked in the City before leaving to pursue a career as a freelance writer. He now writes and edits for the research house Redburn, and lives with his family in Bristol.  ‘What Alice Knew’ is a new addition to the genre of psychological thrillers, perfect for lovers of authors such as Clare Mackintosh and Liane Moriarty.

‘What Alice Knew’ contains a tense, shocking narrative that gradually builds throughout. The novel opens with the protagonist, Alice, who is painting the portrait of a client (she’s a portrait artist). The reader is able to gain some useful knowledge about Alice here – her profession, her family life, her thoughts and her motives. I actually don’t know much about art as a subject or a profession; and Cotterell filled my head with useful knowledge about art and the significance that it holds for some people. Through her profession as a portraitist, Alice is able to see the world from a different perspective, and is able to view people deep down to their core – this added a very unique, dynamic element to the story. Cotterell’s knowledge of art shines through in this novel, as he is able to construct such a brilliantly convincing character as Alice.

The dilemma of the novel begins pretty quickly – towards the end of Chapter One in fact, when Alice’s husband Ed goes missing one night. She is unable to get in touch with him and something is definitely not right. The novel is full of suspense here, creating such a sense of claustrophobia that I could barely breathe. As a reader, millions of questions filled my head: Why would Ed disappear? Where is he? What is he doing? Why hasn’t he contacted Alice?

The narrative motors onwards to an explosive climax, in which Alice discovers exactly what happened when Ed disappeared. Alice is forced to make an extremely difficult choice; for herself, her marriage and her family. She juggles with this decision throughout, and is overcome by a wide array of emotions and thoughts. She almost loses herself as a person. Cotterell’s exceptional narrative made me question what I’d do if I was in Alice’s position; which in my opinion is what the best psychological thrillers are able to achieve.

The construction of Ed as a character is equally brilliant. The reader, without really knowing him personally at all, is aware that Ed’s disappearance is so out of character. Cotterell has a powerful skill is setting up expectations vs. reality, as what we expect to happen in this novel never really does. Ed seems at first to be the perfect husband and father, and his job as a celebrated obstetrician means he saves lives each and every day. But it soon becomes clearly that Ed is not really who we think he is, and there is so much more to his character than first meets the eye.

Now, let’s talk about the ending. That ending! It was so unexpected, and I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t guess what is going to happen, and you’ll be absolutely astonished. I hadn’t experienced a twist as good as this in a long time. I had to stop and re-read it about twenty times – was I sure that I just read that correctly?! It completely blew me away and I could never have anticipated it in a million years. Cotterell has a clear skill in his ability to take an event and completely turn it on its head. Talk about a complete shock!

This is a brilliantly written novel. It’s a novel about truth, guilt, trust and betrayal. It’s a novel about boundaries; of marriage, family and friendship. It truly puts into perspective the complexities of marriage and family life, and how far Alice is willing to go to protect hers. Themes such as violence, death, love, friendships and lies are explored in great detail.

‘What Alice Knew’ was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend that you go and purchase the eBook on December 1st or you pick up a paperback copy on April 20th 2017. I loved every minute of it and was truly obsessed; and I guarantee you will be too!








Happy reading 🙂

11 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘What Alice Knew’ by T.A. Cotterell

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