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The Book I've Read Ten Times

The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams is a haunting love story with a chilling dark edge.  The plot escalates slowly and deliberately towards a tragic and enigmatic conclusion that lingers with the reader long after the book is finished.  I found the story so intriguing that I wanted to understand how Adams had achieved this, but each time I reread it, I got caught up in the story again and found I couldn’t read it as a writer. I ended up using stickers to mark all the places where he delivered a subtle clue. I then noted the position of each clue in the unfolding story and I created a pictogram of the plot.  What I found is that the story is surprisingly simple and linear and that the sense of complexity and mystery is down to Adam’s skill at delivering clues. The book is written in the first person and the reader discovers the facts as the main character does, one puzzle piece at a time. The Girl in a Swing also has psychic and supernatural elements which I wanted to emulate in The First Lie and I wanted an ending that stayed with the reader, but for more uplifting reasons. Reviewers have commented on the unpredictable and page-turning elements of The First Lie and reviewer “Mimi” has said this about its ending: “I was in such a state of euphoria … that I did not want to come back down to earth.”  So my study of The Girl in a Swing has taught me something about mystery writing.