Published by Allen & Unwin on October 1, 2014
Genres: Mystery, New Adult, Psychological Thriller
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Cooper Bartholomew's body is found at the foot of a cliff.
That's the official finding, that's what everyone believes.
Cooper's girlfriend, Libby, has her doubts. They'd been
happy, in love. Why would he take his own life?
As Libby searches for answers, and probes more deeply
into what really happened the day Cooper died, she and
her friends unravel a web of deception and betrayal.
Are those friends – and enemies – what they seem?
Who is hiding a dangerous secret? And will the truth set them all free?
A gripping new novel from the author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage.
Psychological thrillers are one of my favourites – and each and every one of Rebecca James’ novels have been flawless in that respect. They feature characters from the much overlooked demographic of university students, but these NA books are not your typical NA romance.
Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is told through five different people who were involved with Cooper before his untimely death, which happens at the start of the book. Going between Now after Cooper has died, to Before when Libby gets to know Cooper and the fall out between his ex-girlfriend Clare and best friend Sebastian, we see the pieces of the puzzle slowly put together as the story wears on.
I remember Cooper’s face as we talked about moving to Sydney. He’d been so bright and happy. He’d been so alive, so vital. So excited for the future. So why would he go and kill himself?
Cooper’s death was written off as a suicide, but when we see his happiness with Libby during the “Before” perspective, we begin to ask questions. Was he killed, was it suicide, or was there foul play? What are his friends hiding? As we get to know the darker thoughts which Clare and Sebastian were feeling and how they felt cast aside and thrown away, we begin to suspect them and wonder who is telling the truth. Clues and red herrings will be thrown our way until the final few chapters, when we find out the truth – and all the parts fell into place. It’s one I never saw coming, but took a surprisingly different tone than other psychological thrillers I’ve read.
Rebecca James’ writing is simply phenomenal. There is something brisk, frantic and deep about it, that makes you want to keep reading and reading as you explore these characters dark, deep and sometimes sinister emotions. The perspective was experiential and surprisingly pulled off really well – it was told through first person for Libby and Cooper, but third person for Sebastian and Libby. This could have had the potential of being confusing but it surprisingly worked really well, as we experienced the depth of emotion and feelings that Libby and Cooper had for each other, but witness the spiraling fall into drugs, alcohol and self hate for both Clare and Sebastian.
It might be easier to accept his death if she could remember what had actually happened that night. She’d be able to grieve properly if she wasn’t so anxious and scared and full of guilt. But when she tries to recall that night the gaps in her memory are like a solid, impenetrable wall of black.
The characters were complex, deep and interesting – with Cooper being a lovely, perfect gentlemen who will have an eventual demise. Seeing him and Libby’s love story bloom was painful, as we knew the ending to this love story which would never have a happy ending. Sebastian and Clare stood out as the darker, angsty characters. Sebastian who is a gay, well off bachelor who harbours strange feelings for Cooper. And Clare, the popular girl who has fallen from grace spiralling into self pity, overdose and substance abuse. Libby was probably the least complex or stand out character out of all of them, being the questioning girlfriend for Cooper’s death.
As you’ve gathered, this definitely isn’t YA – there is heavy drug use and a fairly graphic sex scene within it. That didn’t affect my enjoyment though, I loved the university setting and the wide array of living situations, which was more relatable to me than American college students living on campus. The characters are either living at home or renting their own unit with a part time job, and they vary between being well off and struggling to make ends meet. They are dealing with identity outside of being the ‘popular kids’ at school. It was refreshing to read a setting that closer to home for me, without all of the usual cliches and drama that comes with high school.
Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a thrilling excursion of seeing the pieces of a puzzle fall into place after you know Cooper is going to die. It’s a fantastic, addictive psychological thriller with complex character development featuring identity, loss of a loved one, parental expectations, angst, and battling high school cliches and expectations. Rebecca James can do no wrong in my eyes – I just wish all of you could pick up her books now!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Follow the tour!
Book Nerd Reviews – First Chapter Extract Monday 1 September
Happy Indulgence Books – First online book review Tuesday 2 September
Spec on SpecFic – First online Q&A Wednesday 3 September
Behind the Pages – Sneak peek under the cover Thursday 4 September
Chasm of Books – Signed ARC Giveaway Friday 5 September