Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 15 June 2022)
Length: 402 pages
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Prepare to dive into one of the more unique and compelling murder mystery novels of 2022 with the trippy Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister.
Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened?
It’s every parent’s nightmare.
Your happy, funny, innocent son commits a terrible crime: murdering a complete stranger.
You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your teenage boy is in custody and his future lost.
That night you fall asleep in despair. Until you wake . . .
. . . and it is yesterday.
Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. Another chance to stop it.
Somewhere in the past lie the answers, and you don’t have a choice but to find them . . .
I must admit that I did not quite know what to expect when I decided to check out Wrong Place Wrong Time. However, I ended up having an amazing time with this excellent and awesome novel from Gillian McAllister, who has produced multiple interesting family orientated crime fiction books over the last few years. Thanks to its great story Wrong Place Wrong Time was pretty damn cool, and I really enjoyed its impressive concept that combines time travel with an intriguing murder mystery.
Wrong Place Wrong Time starts off on a captivating note, with protagonist Jen Brotherhood staring out her window one night and noticing her son, Todd, go up to a man she’s never seen before, and stab him to death in front of the house. With Todd refusing to answer any questions, and her husband, Kelly, not knowing what to do, Jen can only watch as her son is arrested and taken away by the police. Horrified at the terrible future that now awaits her child, Jen eventually collapses into sleep, only to wake up on the morning of the killing, aware of everything that is about to happen.
Confused by what is happening, Jen manages to persuade Todd to stay home that night, thus stopping the killing. However, her ordeal is far from over, as the next time she falls asleep she has awakened even further back in time, to the day before the stabbing, and that each subsequent night she goes back to sleep she is travelling further and further back along her own timeline. Believing that the only chance she might have to stop her jumps into the past and save her son’s future is to figure out why Todd stabbed the man, Jen begins to investigate the crime in reverse, perusing her son’s movements in the weeks and months leading up to the crime and trying to decide how he knew the murder victim and why he felt that he needed to kill him. However, the more she digs and the further back in time she travels, the more Jen begins to realise that there is so much about her family and her past that she didn’t know, and she’ll have to find out every single secret to find a way to stop everything.
I really liked how this fantastic story came together, and Wrong Place Wrong Time was one of the more distinctive murder mystery/science fiction hybrid novels that I have read. McAllister sets her entire time travel premise at the start of the book really well, and you soon get really engrossed in watching the protagonist continually falling backwards in time day by day. Once the protagonist begins to understand what is befalling her, the story launches into its mostly standard pattern as Jen attempts to live her life in reverse while also investigating the events that led up to her son committing his crime. I really enjoyed the reverse investigation that Jen was forced to do, and it was fascinating to see her attempt to decipher events through both the lens of her future knowledge and her previous understanding of the past.
While Jen’s storyline is the most prominent in the novel, there is also an interesting secondary storyline that follows a police officer who is assigned to investigate crimes in the same area as the main story is taking place. This secondary storyline, which is progressing in a normal linear way, intersects with the main storyline is some brilliant ways, and it provides some intriguing and powerful context to Jen’s investigations in the past. I was really impressed with how McAllister wrote this amazing story, and the excellent combination of time travel and mystery, came together extremely well. It takes a particularly skilled author to hide twists in a narrative where the protagonist is going backwards through time, and Wrong Place Wrong Time had several great secrets that you will not see coming. If I were to make one complaint, it would be that the eventual reveal about what caused the time travel was a little weak, but honestly, that was a very minor issue that didn’t impact my enjoyment that greatly. Easily one of the more complex and inventive mystery thrillers of 2022, you will become highly engrossed in Jen’s attempts to find the truth further and further back in time.
While there is an understandable focus on both the mystery and time travel aspects of Wrong Place Wrong Time, I must also highlight the compelling character nature of the book that serves as the story’s beating heart. The story mostly follows protagonist Jen, who goes through a rough journey in this novel. At the start of the novel, Jen is a happy and successful woman, extremely confident in her apparently strong connection to her son. However, after witnessing her son’s crime and subsequently jumping back in time, she begins to truly appreciate just how little she knows about her family, and that there are many secrets surrounding them. This harrowing journey into the past, combined with the multiple revelations about her family’s history really starts to wear on her, and it was highly moving and tragic to witness Jen start to break down. However, you also get to witness her strength and her commitment to her family, as she still struggles to solve this mystery, no matter how badly it impacts her or how much of her life she is forced to relive in reverse. I especially loved seeing the relationship that she has with her son and husband, as you get to see the various stages of their connection and life in reverse, and it helps to paint a powerful picture about family and connection. Thanks to this, and more, you really grow attached to Jen and the other characters, and this really helps to increase the impacts and stakes of Jen’s journey.
Talented author Gillian McAllister has done an incredible job here with Wrong Place Wrong Time. Thanks to its compelling and memorable character-driven plot that combines a slow journey back into the past with an intense murder mystery, Wrong Place Wrong Time is a gripping and clever read that I really got attached to. There are so many great elements to this fantastic book, and it is really worth checking out.