Family, family, family. That’s probably my greatest fascination in fiction. I love stories that centre on the theme of familial trauma, schisms, redemption, or disintegration. In fact, I struggle to recall a work of true brilliance which is not informed, at least in part, by that cog in the societal machine that’s as old as humankind itself: family.

Enter Sarah O’Neill’s Deadly Obsession.

As with so many thrillers (and my first horror novel, For Rye) this story is set into motion by a troubled woman’s return to her hometown after a family bereavement. What’s different in this story is that she is both running from a threat (in this case a toxic and violent relationship) and in some ways heading straight for another, this time a psychological one: the need to confront the family, friends, and lover she abandoned years ago, and facing up to past decisions she now regrets.

But the role of family in fiction doesn’t always need to be about those related by blood. Deadly Obsession centres around not only family in the literal sense, but also those people who enter our lives, unconnected by genes or blood, but who prove through their support and loyalty to hold just as close a familial bond as a brother or sister ever could.

This first part in the ‘Mason Investigations’ series is brilliantly written and solidly constructed. Sarah certainly has an eye for detail in the composition of her scenes, as well as that crucial ability to characterise the various players of her story in such a convincing way that the reader may find themselves feeling like they’ve known these people forever. Familiarity mixed with unpredictability: maybe these are the two key components that led to this novel being so hugely captivating.

Deadly Obsession will appeal to demographics of all ages and tastes, so it’s safe to say that I don’t think you can go wrong with this one. Amazing work, Sarah!

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