[Book Review] Unravelling by Helen Forbes

Unravelling Helen Forbes
Front cover

Genre: Psychological thriller

Publication date: July 17, 2021

Length: 352 pages

Potential trigger warning: Mental illness


A forest of secrets 

Two bodies are found buried in a Highland forest, a place that haunts the dreams of Kate Sharp. Her mother, Ellen, died when Kate was a child. Does the forest hold the secret to her death? 

A secret journal 

Kate discovers her mother’s journal, and the tale of a tragic unravelling begins to unfold. Ellen’s story is one of fear and hope, love and loss, set against the imposing background of Craig Dunain, a psychiatric hospital where she should have been safe.  

Unravelling the truth 

Someone else from Ellen’s past is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them. Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search. Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?  

Beautifully written, cleverly plotted, and meticulously researched, Unravelling is a captivating tale of family secrets. 

My Review

Unravelling is both frightening and saddening.

It’s frightening because the author has sketched characters who blur the line between sanity and madness. You’re never sure who is normal and who is not. You even begin to doubt what “normal” means anymore.

It’s saddening because it depicts the story of a woman who could have been so much, yet was reduced to fighting for survival because of the demons in her head and in her life. Sometimes, even the best of support is not enough. There are many heartbreaking moments in this grim and gritty story, and I had to take my time over certain incidents because they were overwhelming.

What jumped out at me was how the story put a spotlight on mental health problems and the changing attitude of society and the medical fraternity toward mental health patients.

Craig Dunain Hospital was previously called “Northern Counties District Lunatic Asylum,” a name that is indicative of the ignorant way patients were perceived. The story speaks of electrocution being used as a form of therapy to treat mental illnesses, of pinning unruly patients down and injecting them with medicine, and of isolating troublesome patients until they behave.

There are whispers, too, of hospital staff mistreating patients and getting away with it because nobody believes the patient. Outside the hospital, family members of the patients have to endure cruel taunts and jibes because mental illness is a shameful thing.

The story spans two generations – revolving around a mother and her daughter – and the people in their life. So we see the changing attitudes towards mental health over the decades.

As a psychological thriller, Unravelling will have your hair standing on end with its powerful depictions of insanity: the breakdown of the very core of a person whose mind has begun to unravel. Yet, the way the person desperately holds on to a few strands of sanity and hopes to live a normal life with her family will make you feel desolate. The murder angle puts a deadly twist on this sad tale and the combination of evil and psychological instability is potent.

To me, the murder(s) (?) were less important than the narrative around mental health. But the story is crackling with tension, making you feel that there’s danger around every bend. It’s deeply satisfying to follow Kate as she finds the truth about her mother and uncovers a few truths about herself as well.

(I received an e-copy from Rachel’s Random Resources with a request for an honest review.)

Purchase Links

UK https://amzn.to/3hDz8EJ / US https://amzn.to/2XqDZlU

Author Bio –

Crime fiction was not what lawyer, Helen Forbes, expected to write.  As a single parent and mature law student, she used her limited spare time to write contemporary and historical fiction.  It was a chance remark at a writing club that led her to develop a short story into her debut crime novel, In the Shadow of the Hill, featuring DS Joe Galbraith. The novel is set in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and it was described in one newspaper review as having ‘more twists and turns than the road to the isles, making it impossible to put down.’  The novel and characters proved popular with readers, leading to the publication of a second book in the DS Joe Galbraith series. Madness Lies is set in Inverness and North Uist.  Helen has now taken to crime with a passion, and has published two psychological thrillers. Unravelling is set in Inverness, against the background of a former psychiatric hospital. Deception is set in Edinburgh, and tackles the themes of domestic violence, prostitution and trafficking. Helen has also completed a further thriller set in Edinburgh, which she hopes to publish in 2022. Queen of Grime’s main character is a crime and trauma scene cleaner with a big secret. It is gritty and dark, but also funny and uplifting. Helen hopes to expand Queen of Grime into a series.

Social Media Links –

Facebook Author Page https://bit.ly/3mzghfD

Twitter https://twitter.com/foreva48

Website https://www.helenforbes.co.uk/

One response to “[Book Review] Unravelling by Helen Forbes”

  1. Thank you for your review 🙂

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