Wrong Place Wrong Time – Book Review
Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“How do you stop a murder when it’s already happened?”
It’s hard to write something that’s never been done. Time travel has been done before, but not like this. It’s something completely and utterly original and I don’t think I’ll stop talking about it… ever! Another incredible book by Gillian – if you’ve not read it yet, I urge you to as soon as possible! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of what is absolutely going to be my book of the year 🥳
About the book
Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened?
It’s every parent’s nightmare.
Your happy, funny, innocent son commits a terrible crime: murdering a complete stranger.
You don’t know who.
You don’t know why.
You only know your teenage boy is in custody – and his future lost.
Somewhere in the past lie the answers, and you don’t have a choice but to find them . . .
I just had to smile reading that opening chapter. It was absolutely superb, but I knew it would be before I even opened the book. After reading Gillian’s previous novel, That Night, at the end of last year and choosing it as my top read of 2021, I thought this book had to be something pretty spectacular to top it, and even without reading the whole thing just yet, I knew it’d be just as unforgettable. I immediately loved the characters we’re introduced to – Jen and Kerry, and of course, their son, Todd. I was so incredibly curious about their lives and the kind of people they were, and when they witness Todd murder a man right in front of their house, that was it. Hooked. Book glued to my hands. Pages turning and turning. That’s one thing you’re guaranteed when reading a book by Gillian. The first chapter will 100% make you forget about life. About absolutely anything and everything. It’s the opening we all want and need!
The book follows Jen after she witnesses her son kill a man. She wakes up the next day to find that it’s the day before the murder. Her son thinks she’s going crazy. She thinks she’s going crazy. (Did I think she was going crazy too?) It’s perfectly mind-boggling, and the concept filled my brain with possibilities. What was going on? Was Jen experiencing some sort of premonition? Or was something sinister happening? As Jen begins to somewhat accept what’s happening, thing get very interesting. I already felt like I was in Jen’s head, thinking her thoughts, trying to piece together what the hell was happening and how she could get out of this loop she’d found herself in. There was something she had to do to make things right, to stop all this and to get her life back to normal. But what was it? I’ve read many, many amazing reviews for this book already, but nothing quite beats reading it with your own eyes. I literally couldn’t think of anything else while this book was in my hands… and even when it wasn’t!
“They are here, tonight, together, even if they might part again tomorrow, like two passengers on two trains going in opposite directions.”
Jen searches for clues about what Todd is up to in the days leading up to the murder, each page completely absorbing and satisfying to read. With every day that passes, she gathers new, crucial pieces of evidence or information that I knew we’d need later on, and this pattern of Jen waking up and continuing her hunt for information also became a part of my own routine. I felt just as determined as Jen to find the truth, the time travel aspect completely blowing my mind with each chapter. I loved the introduction of other characters too at this stage, particularly Ryan, a cop on his first day on the force. Right now, there were no links between him and Jen, but I knew it was only a matter of time before they were connected, before he became an invaluable part of the puzzle. Each chapter ended on a curious note or exciting cliff hanger, and when she finally gets her experience across to her husband, I felt a huge wave of relief alongside Jen, even though it was short lived – this conversation would soon be lost in time.
Travelling back in time must be frustrating as hell. Things you write down disappear the ‘next’ day because you haven’t goddamn written them yet. Crucial conversations are forgotten about because you haven’t even had them yet. As annoying as this feels for Jen, it made for such brilliant reading. Living life backwards must suck. Even more so when you can’t seem to do anything about it. The more time I sank into this book, the more I loved Jen. Such a genuine person with a heart of gold. The author writes Jen’s views on motherhood and all she’s experienced with Todd with such clarity, and by the end of one particular chapter, I had tears in my eyes. Even though I’m not a mother myself, it strangely evoked some emotions. Really powerful stuff. All this makes her journey to help Todd and do the right thing even more important. Ryan’s story also gets very interesting here – I couldn’t wait to see how all these people linked together! Just an absolutely amazing start the book.
Despite there being a lot to keep track of throughout the chapters, the author does a grand job at keeping us in the loop and refreshing our memories with the things we know and the things we need to discover. It was really clever and felt so satisfying! I always felt up to speed and desperate to dive into the next chapter. The unpredictability of everything made this book so addictive, so suspenseful, and when the twists start coming and we learn some shocking truths, these feelings just multiplied! Exceptional description places you directly in the pages, tense conversations between characters have you holding your breath. I loved learning more and more from both Jen’s and Ryan’s point of view, and as we did so, we realise just how far Jen has come in her search for answers. Ryan’s new task at work fills him with a sense of purpose, but just what was he getting himself into? And can Jen act fast enough to save more than one life? Would she even want to in the end?
The story gets darker, the twists become more defined and I began to read faster and more urgently than before. Gillian’s exceptional storytelling unfolded into something completely unique. Characters I wasn’t sure about at the start seemed to grow on me, characters I was sure about had me thinking twice. I loved how my opinions changed over time as I took everything in, and I loved just how much the storyline cemented itself into my brain each day. It’s quite funny; I’ve seen the words “page 190” over on Instagram a lot when looking at posts and Stories for this book, and when I finally reached it, it was very clear why this was a crucial moment. I began to fear for Jen’s safety, more questions about so many characters began to invade my thoughts and I just couldn’t stop thinking about the lies, the secrets of someone you wouldn’t expect to act this way. I wasn’t quite sure how the author could make the second half of the book more intense than the first, but I just knew she’d manage it!
“How sinister it is to relive your life backwards. To see things you hadn’t at the time. To realize the horrible significance of events you had no idea were playing out around you.”
Jen continues to travel back in time (to day minus one hundred and thirty one up to now) and the further back in time she gets from Todd committing a murder, the more danger she uncovers, the more worry and anxiety she experiences. Of course, this is effortlessly shared with the reader too thanks to Gillian’s consistently exceptional description and dialogue. I really felt for Ryan as he’s plunged into an undercover role, something so scary and unfamiliar. The chance of his cover being blown and being killed as a result weighing on his mind. The things we learn about him and his past were some of my absolute favourite moments in the book so far. A really solid character! Despite Jen’s main task throughout this whole time loop being to stop her son murdering a unfamiliar man, she uses her second chances to right some wrongs or to do things differently than she did the first time around, even though she probably shouldn’t. Again, some excellent, emotional and powerful scenes that made me tear up again!
We see all the incredible roles Jen plays throughout her life; a devoted mother, a loving wife, a selfless daughter and a damn good lawyer (she does also make a cracking detective). It was here where I really began to think about where this book could possibly end and how the author could tie up all those loose ends, but no matter how much I thought, I couldn’t predict any of it, something I adored. It was also nice to see some of the author’s personality and her life injected into this book, but I also saw this in her last book too! More phenomenal twists and those “OHHH” moments absolutely delighted my brain and made me think harder about so much; we’re constantly learning new things about different characters and the author is perfectly laying out each detail, a flawless path towards the book’s finale. Fates are uncertain, but what I was certain about was that I was not ready for what the last part of the book had in store!
There was always a nice sense of excitement whenever I started a new chapter – a big reason was to see just how far into the past Jen finds herself. When we reached a huge 15 years into the past, things began to get much darker, but there were also some lighter moments between herself and her then three-year-old son. She realises, as she relives this day, that the way she raised him had nothing to do with why he committed that murder 15 years later. Her love for her son and his love for her was pure and real, and her realisation of this puts some things into perspective. However, she’s still yet the get to the bottom of his motives for killing, and she still doesn’t know how to put a stop to the time loop that is eating away at her, forcing her to live certain days way into her past. It was so interesting hearing about this part of Jen’s life, about her family in their younger years and trying to pick up on any clues alongside Jen. And yes, there are more unforgettable moments to experience and shocking information to discover! It’s consistently excellent.
The amount of ‘what the f*ck’ moments I had when reading the rest of this book was off the scale, the sheer perfection of each reveal, each huge twist had me absolutely speechless. Writing this and getting all the timelines perfectly in order must have been so so tough! I had to pause my reading for a few minutes before I continued in some parts purely to process what had just happened and what that would mean for different characters going forward. Almost 20 years into the past now, and the tiny little details the author writes really takes us back in time. Old brick mobile phones. Smoking in taxis. Flared jeans. Woolworths. READING to pass the time (would you believe it…) I absolutely loved the extra information to set the scene of a whole different time! But, a huge scene, a massive break for Jen investigating the murder, was a court room scene, and I completely fell in love with it for so many reasons. This particular case had me holding onto the author’s every word. This was it. Surely this was where everything would come together…
“So this is a life lived in reverse. Things happened that Jen had no idea about, that passed her by as innocuously as cars.”
Once that final piece of the puzzle fit snugly into place, I felt like I could breathe properly for the first time! What a finale. What a mesmerising sequence of events. Completely and utterly flawless. I felt like giving Jen the biggest hug. So much weight on her shoulders, so much for one person to bear. But wait, what was this? We’re still moving back in time. Further into the past… could there be even more to come?! More secrets to uncover? Would Jen ever find herself back where she started? Just when I thought everything was finished and perfect, the author has one final trick up her sleeve, one more thing to blow my mind and have me thinking about the whole story once again. Is it too soon for a second read through?! Knowing what I know now after almost reaching those ending pages, I feel like the reading experience would be completely different starting from scratch, something I haven’t really experienced much of in the books I’ve read. Gillian has done it, she really has. I’m not sure anything will compare to this.
The rounding off of everything has been written without fault. The way things end, the things left to our imagination will 100% be in my brain for months. I’ve become so attached to these characters and their lives that it will feel very weird not picking up this book each day. It’s strange knowing they’re not real people, their lives a complete work of fiction. Jen continues to learn and discover unthinkable things right until those last pages – the book never slows down and always kept my brain buzzing with excitement and possibilities. The extremely clever ‘extra’ chapter after we complete Jen’s journey was such an impressive little snippet, and I just wanted the book to go on and on from this point onwards. Astounding. Phenomenal. Remarkable. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of praise or of words to say about this book, yet it made me speechless at the same time. The power of a book by Gillian McAllister!
Wrong Place Wrong Time is easily my book of the year. Gillian has taken a risk, a huge leap in the creation of this book which is so unlike her others. But it’s a risk that had absolutely paid off; I have never read anything quite like this before and I’m buzzing from such a thrilling story of time loops, the power of love in so many forms and of just how much it felt like a big puzzle we had to solve alongside Jen. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a character as much as I loved her, and joining her on this mission to find the truth and right some wrongs has been one of the most exhilarating rides of my life. A true gem of a book. Something I will never forget.
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