Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty has the makings for a great crime novel. Infidelity, a murder, a court case and a twist at the end. Heck it’s even set in London, where apparently, based on the crime novels I’ve read, all murders occur. Must be the terrible weather that entices people to it.
Set in London and told from the perspective of Yvonne, Apple Tree Yard begins in a court, during a trial for murder, and works backwards from there. Despite being in a comfortable marriage, with a renowned career as a geneticist, Yvonne is still enticed by the nameless man who seduces her in parliament. Yet what starts as a clandestine affair quickly becomes all too real when Yvonne is attacked by a fellow co-worker and she feels as though she has no-one to turn to. After all, that’s the problem when you keep too many secrets.
Before I go any further, I would like to point out that the book that I read before this one was Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – a novel that took him the better part of a decade to write and which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. So keeping in that in mind, I am probably being a bit unfair when I complain about Louise Doughty’s style of writing.
The issue that I had with this novel was the weird way that it was written. It was first person perspective, but almost as though it was in a letter form – rather than telling a story, the protagonist Yvonne speaks as though she is directly talking to her lover. While it definitely is something a bit different, which is usually quite refreshing, instead it came across as clunky, slow and a bit cliche. Overall, it felt like it could have had a good, tough edit, to make it more succinct and less…eh.
Secondly, there were aspects of the plot that didn’t really match up or have a great deal of relevance. One thing that we’re given a teaser about is the state of Yvonne’s son – we know there’s something odd about him, but what is it? What bearing will it have on the murder? Well, it turns out, it doesn’t really have much to do with the plot at all, and in the end it just sort of fades away, rather than being resolved. And while from the get-go Yvonne is described as smart, successful and leading the perfect life, it takes a long time to figure out what exactly it is that makes her life so enviable. The result is that instead of a suspenseful thriller about a high flyer, we’re dealing with a lacklustre affair that doesn’t really seem to have much to motivate it.
This book definitely does have potential and I can appreciate that Doughty tried to change up the traditional ‘whodunit’ crime thriller. Yet while I’m not the biggest crime reader, even I felt that I could guess the twists that were coming and some of the characters were just a touch too transparent. While it was an entertaining read overall, I have read better crime, and would probably recommend something else.
Have you read Apple Tree Yard or anything by Louise Doughty? What did you think? Are you a fan of crime novels? Let me know!