Wednesday, March 07, 2018

“The Gift” by Louise Jensen – The Balance of Life and Death

Exploring a Cycle of Mysteries with Louise Jensen

Organ donation is the kind of topic most of us are going to ignore until either something very interesting happens in that world, or it begins to concern us directly. However, if we stop to think about it just for a little bit, it must be an incredibly bizarre experience to be living with someone else's organ beating inside of you, especially if the donor in question had to be dead to make that happen. The cycle of life and death is a curious one, and organ donation (or recycling, if you will) only adds to the strangeness of the whole affair. For authors such as Louise Jensen, it can set the perfect stage for a gripping and unsettling thriller mystery, as it did for her novel The Gift.

The story opens as we are introduced to Jenna, a young woman who just obtained a second lease on life following a heart transplant and a break-up with her live-in boyfriend. After taking some months off to recover, she is ready to return to work, but as is always the case in life, things aren't about to go as planned. Weird sensations begin to take over her days, and her nights start to be plagued by strange dreams and visions. Against her doctor's recommendations, Jenna decides it would be best to pay the donor's family a visit and thank them for what they gave her. As she makes their acquaintance, she realizes that those dreams were the memories of Callie, the heart's original owner. What's worse, it becomes increasingly apparent to Jenna that the girl didn't exit life of her own accord and the family is doubtlessly trying to hide something. Before she knows it, Jenna becomes embroiled in a macabre murder investigation that promises to uproot what's left of the mirage created by a broken family on the verge of losing it all.

Creativity Abound

With a plot such as this one containing a fair amount of originality and room for manoeuvring it shouldn't come as a surprise that much of the author's focus is placed on the story and moving the investigation forward. This approach certainly won't have me complaining as I felt the plot itself was the novel's main forte; Jensen's ability to carefully unravel the threads of mystery is one many authors should use as an example. She knows how to create a long-lasting atmosphere of dread and danger, the kind of frightful disgust which comes with knowing there's a monster in human form afoot.

While it is true that a couple of twists can be seen coming miles away, I would say that one the whole the story has more than enough surprises in store to keep you on guessing and on your toes. It feels like there is always some sort of twist waiting around the corner, and the author does take pleasure in subverting our expectations for the eventual course of events. Add to that the context of the story, the whole heart and memory transplant deal, and you have yourself a multifaceted and creative novel that pulls towards the unexpected. While the book does lack a tiny bit in terms of realism, I believe it's something we can all overlook due to how well the plot was put together.

War Without Blood

I feel like one of the downfalls of many modern suspense writers is assuming they need to up the ante to create some tension, whether it be through be making their characters do the unthinkable or by adding violence and gore into the mix. I would really love for these authors to have a look at this book of Jensen's, for in my mind it stands as a prime example of how to create a suspenseful story without the use of extreme naturalism or blood. Much of the tension comes from the implications of what we learn, and from how far our imagination can take us. This is really a case of the unknown being more frightening than anything else, and it does take a fair bit of talent to manipulate the reader's imagination in such a way.

The characters themselves and the reserved ways in which they were presented added to the overall stressful atmosphere as we're never quite certain who we can and cannot trust. After all, in a situation such as this one anyone could turn out to have their own agenda. Even our expose into Jenna's life doesn't reveal nearly as much as it could, leaving plenty of room for character development down the line, should Jensen choose to pursue that road. I will admit I wasn't a huge fan of her propensity to constantly push people away from her as it got a bit predictable, but it's a flaw I'm willing to overlook.

The Final Verdict

With all being said and done, The Gift is a captivating suspense thriller that relies on atmosphere and implications rather than explicit materials to create a very palpable tension that carries the reader from one twist to the next. It does have a few editing errors here and there, but on the whole it's an extremely enjoyable read for fans of the genre, a unique premise for a mystery that showcases the Louise Jensen's talent in all of its brightness. It's a book I highly recommend if you enjoy murder mysteries to any degree.

Louise Jensen

Louise Jensen is a British author who, after shelving her passion for more than twenty years, decided to write a book and ended up publishing a bestseller (and so far her only work), The Sister.

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