The ninth novel from the author probably best known for the thriller Apple Tree Yard is as gripping and brilliant as anything I have read this year. Doughty has that rare ability to marry the tightest of plots with characters so rounded and believable that they come to feel like people you actually know. This is the story of Lisa Evans, and it begins at Peterborough Station at 4 a.m.
The dead are troublesome storytellers. If we’re playing by the correct rules of afterlife narrative, ghosts can have only a remembered knowledge of human feeling, and they cannot physically engage with reality. They are reliant on description, masses of it, to constantly fix themselves in place. And Platform Seven really does describe things — at length — especially during the section which deals with Lisa’s sorry love life. The final pages are very moving, I will say that; but a much shorter book could have packed more spiritual oomph.
Doughty paints a claustrophobic and all-too-believable portrait of a controlling relationship. I also love her evocation of place and character; each member of staff at the station has a backstory, creating a complex web of human relationships.
As accessible, issue-based psychological suspense in a marvellously recognisable British setting, Platform Seven is sure to attract plenty of attention. But, not unlike British trains, it might promise rather more than it delivers.
Watching a stranger approach the edge of the platform, ghost Lisa Evans is powerless to prevent what is about to happen. She is also unsettled by the feeling there must be a connection between the coming death and her own. Determined to seek out the truth, she guesses it can't be worse than not knowing - or can it? Doughty's eerie and atmospheric writing combines a calm assurance with sinister darkness.
The opening of Louise Doughty’s substantial ninth novel is as horribly gripping as it is bleak, with the added twist that its narrator, thirtysomething teacher Lisa, is also dead, having fallen on to the tracks some months before. Could the two deaths be connected?...
Doughty excels at naturalistic, bantering dialogue, and Matty’s terrifying split-second transformations and descents into violent rage ring horribly true.
Yet the grimness is skilfully leavened, with the various plot strands ultimately resolving into a powerfully moving mediation on the nature of love.
The author, however, has done her homework on life in a railway station and there is tenderness particularly in her description of Dalmar, the Somali security guard at Peterborough station. One of Doughty’s successes in this novel is examining characters with ostensibly quite ordinary existences and imbuing their lives with complexity and yearning. She is also thoughtful in exploring difficult subjects such as emotional abuse, suicide and grief.
Doughty’s ninth novel follows in the acclaimed footsteps of such taut, psychological thrillers as Apple Tree Yard, Black Water and Whatever You Love. Genocide, murder and the worst kinds of betrayal have saturated her work, preoccupied as it is with the darkest corners of the human experience....Highly literary, by turns tragic and redemptive and gloriously strange, it’s a wonderful book: both a warning and a well-crafted, pacy arc of cause-and-effect.
If the phantom elements of the story are at times far-fetched, the underlying theme of an apparently charismatic man gaslighting his insecure girlfriend until she breaks down is not. Doughty has a knack for dissecting the dark side of intimate relationships and exposing what could at first seem like loving concern as a compulsive and unhealthy need to be in control. She has explored similar territory in her previous novels, including the bestselling Apple Tree Yard, made into a TV series with compelling performances from Emily Watson and her deadly lover, played by Ben Chaplin.
Malign presences stalk this tale and the Apple Tree Yardauthor goes on to unravel a scarily plausible story of emotional abuse and coercive control, one that led to Lisa Evans’s death and which will go on to play out in the lives of many other women, unless young British Transport Police officer PC Akash Lockhart can dig deeper into her apparent suicide. Platform Seven manages to be both rooted in the horror of human evil –
Doughty is sharp on the way in which our society fine-tools women to be victims (‘What is it with us women, the capacity we have to blame ourselves in any given situation? Do they hand it out like an extra X chromosome?’), a theme she has already explored in her bestselling Apple Tree Yard. That book, which saw a woman fall foul of the law following the death of her abuser, was a truly thrilling read, but this lower-key work has more of a ring of authenticity; after all, in real life it is overwhelmingly likelier that an abused woman will die rather than kill.