Leaving behind a murky and febrile past, perhaps by even relocating to a new country, should be a relatively straightforward and even somewhat calculatedly cold and clinical procedure – or should it?
Such a vehemently audacious manoeuvre is firmly embedded at the vibrant core of the spine-tingling and expertly-interwoven plot of Australian author Kelli Hawkins’ latest novel, the rollercoaster-ride psychological thriller “All She Wants”.
Set in the laid-back, yet simultaneously frenetic, beachside locale of Newcastle (the city where Kelli resides), this dark yet hopeful novel, focuses on three vastly disparate protagonists – Lindsay Winters, and brother and sister, Natalie and Jack Davis.
At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to thirty-seven year old kindergarten teacher Lindsay, who has bravely yet upsettingly gone to Natalie, thirty-nine, a highly-polished and professional British private investigator, as Lindsay suspects that her boyfriend, Mark, of nine years has been quite the treacherous cad, and has been cheating on her. Insultingly for Lindsay, her gut-wrenchingly furtive suspicions prove to be alarmingly correct (Natalie takes photos of Mark and Julia, the much younger girl from Mark’s work, together).
Lindsay is tortuously gutted, not least because she has been so desperate to have a baby with Mark (he has kept delaying them having a baby), and now sees her time to have a baby running cruelly out given her age.
It is not long however, before the scheming and starkly manipulative Natalie is setting her devilishly handsome younger brother, Jack, thirty-three, up with Lindsay. Natalie tells the receptive Lindsay, ” ‘My brother and I moved to Newcastle six months ago. We found ourselves in need of a change of scenery ‘ “.
In no time at all, Lindsay and Jack, a woodworker for a hobby, are very much an ‘item’. Jack tells Lindsay, ” ‘ Our parents were wealthy…They left us plenty to live on…it meant I’ve been able to concentrate on my woodworking without the pressure of needing to earn a living ‘ “. Natalie sombrely divulges to Lindsay that her and Jack’s parents are both dead, and both siblings barely discuss their parents.
When Jack, who lives in a stylish Federation house, begins suffering recurrent nightmares and ‘blackouts’, Lindsay is notably perplexed and distressed, yet Jack tells Lindsay in an eager and anticipatory way, ” ‘ You’ll fix me Lindsay Winters, I know it ‘ “.
In the novel, we travel back and forward in time; the past described in a heartbreakingly cryptic, but later more overtly informative manner. Natalie warns Jack regarding Lindsay, in the present, ” ‘ We can’t have Lindsay finding out the truth ‘ “, and goes on to say ” ‘ Just be careful what you say to Lindsay…We don’t want to scare her off ‘ “.
Meanwhile, why has Natalie lied to Lindsay and told Lindsay that Natalie’s good friend Rachel is an accountant when she is really a policewoman? And who is the mysterious Paul Maxwell that Natalie is so wary of? Additionally, why does Natalie start speaking in a cockney accent during a particular phone conversation, despite the fact that her and Jack normally speak in upper-class accents?
“All She Wants” is a highly intelligent and discerning read, where the story is captivating, heartbreaking and at times outright frightening. Kelli Hawkins has written a definitively-accomplished novel that will have you guessing until the very end – an ending that delivers a sucker punch to the reader. This is the second novel I’ve read of Kelli’s, the first being “Other People’s Houses”. In both novels Kelli’s skills of observation and character development are exemplary. I so much enjoyed reading “All She Wants”, and I can’t wait to see what Kelli writes next.