Why She Left Us - David Dennis
I think a good way of opening a book ��� be it title or first line - is to throw a question of some sort in there, leaving us thinking why, how or tell me more, and that carrot is used as an incentive to hook us.

David Dennis does this expertly. Why did she leave us? Who left us? How did she leave us? Did she get the bus? Did she run away screaming? Did she jump off a cliff? Did she elope with another man? You���ve got to read on to find out.

As I read the book I���d convinced myself I was going to give it a four Star rating, simply because the chronology is so confused. It���s an excellent story but it flits from present to past and backwards and forwards again at such an alarming rate that until the reader settles into the rhythm of the book it can be slightly bewildering.

This in itself may be enough to put off certain readers but my advice is to stick with it.

There���s great debate as to whether male authors can write female characters (or vice versa), but for a male author to cruise the emerging battles of the sexes with the skill that Dennis utilises is quite remarkable. Bringing an intricate and puzzling female character to fictional life is daunting enough for a man. Occupying their actual voice is even more so, yet Dennis manages this with not just one female character, but four of them, all completely different.

When a male writes a female you tend to encounter women who are a variation on one or more of four themes; virgin, whore, mother, bitch. Sometimes they begin as one (usually virgin) and progress through the others as characters develop. In this book we have all four.

You���ve got the patronising, condescending, think-good-of-absolutely-everyone, Betsy. The crippled and brazen slut Ellen. The institutionalised Monica. And the spinster Aunt Lucille. And that���s not to mention the fast-and-loose mother, who���s the biggest hussy of them all, with all the morals of a hungry pride of lions. I���d like to have read HER diary.

On top of all this we have the two main male characters.

Suffice to say, not everything is as it seems in this story, and why I eventually decided to give it a five Star rating is because of the twist in the tale at the end. I didn���t see that coming at all.

Writing a surprise ending with a twist in the plot is fraught with peril. Give the reader too much information and when the rabbit is finally pulled out of the hat, everyone rolls their eyes and says, ���I saw that coming right the way through the book.���

There are hints, but you don���t realise these at the time. David Dennis successfully manages to walk the tightrope of concealment and exposure to create an ending that I promise you won���t see coming.

A well deserved five Stars.