Platform Seven by Louise Doughty: Beautifully constructed, exquisitely told, and with all the pace and suspense of a classic thriller - book review -

Platform Seven
Platform Seven
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When a man walks to the edge of the platform at Peterborough Railway Station, 36-year-old Lisa Evans knows immediately what he is planning to do.

When a man walks to the edge of the platform at Peterborough Railway Station, 36-year-old Lisa Evans knows immediately what he is planning to do.

And at the moment he steps out under a passing train, she is certain that his suicide is connected to another death on the same platform eighteen months ago… her own.

Louise Doughty, bestselling author of Apple Tree Yard, the novel that was turned into a hit BBC TV drama in 2017, returns to thrill and chill us with a dark, addictive and unsettling story of emotional abuse, destructive relationships, and the way ordinary lives can be torn apart for the most complex reasons.

Platform Seven is an extraordinary novel from an extraordinary writer… a nail-biting mystery and a searing exploration of the human capacity for cruel inhumanity, but also a moving, contemporary and contemplative tale of love, hope and redemption in a world that can too often seem painfully detached from suffering.

Using mystery, the paranormal, an atmosphere brimming with menace and tension, and a series of revelations that leave readers reeling, Doughty delivers a mesmerising domestic noir thriller that in its raw honesty and acute observation far transcends the normal.

At 4am on a freezing November morning in Peterborough Railway Station, Platform Seven is deserted. The man, with his woolly hat pulled down over his ears, crosses the covered walkway and appears confident that he is alone.

As he sits on the metal bench at the far end of the platform it is clear that his choice is strategic… he’s as far away from the night staff as he can get. What the man doesn’t realise is that he has company.

Lisa Evans looks into his watery, unblinking gaze and knows what he has decided. She tries and fails to stop him walking to the platform edge where he tips himself forward into the path of a thundering freight train.

For Lisa, who died in the same place eighteen months ago, this new fatality convinces her that it must be connected to her own passing on Platform Seven. His death makes her feel uneasy and to wonder if she is linked to him ‘by some event or relationship.’

But the ‘dreamlike state’ in which she now exists also applies to her thoughts and she can’t remember her name or why she died. ‘I know who I am, I’m a ghost, invisible and silent, nothing but consciousness. I want to know who I was.’

As young and keen PC Akash Lockhart of the British Transport Police begins to make enquiries into the second suicide on Platform Seven, he starts to look into Lisa’s death and becomes convinced that ‘she wasn’t the usual type.’

The death has also ‘unlocked’ something in Lisa and she hopes that this will be her ‘route’ back to who and what she was before she died. And one thing she is increasingly certain about is that she didn’t throw herself off Platform Seven.

As PC Lockhart delves through past events, the story of schoolteacher Lisa’s abusive relationship with a young hospital doctor called Matthew Goodison turns to darker territory than he – or Lisa – could have ever imagined.

A ghost story, with an intriguing and disturbing whodunit at its dark heart, Platform Seven imagines a lost soul wandering through the purgatory of the bustling railway station where her life ended, and slowly reeling in the memories that will lead her to the truth of her untimely demise, and the freedom to leave its claustrophobic confines.

As Lisa journeys through the harrowing months and happier years before her death, and her corrosive, coercive relationship with the ‘charming’ and controlling young doctor who stole her confidence and her self-worth, we meet the vivid cast of people whose own lives are in some way connected to the station.

Some are regular travellers and visitors with their own stories and their own everyday concerns, and others are workers whose jobs link them to the station… people like Dalmar, the security guard from Somalia who fled the bombs of his war-torn country to instead look out for them on an English railway station, and the dedicated PC Lockhart who is determined to discover the truth of Lisa’s death.

Beautifully constructed, exquisitely told, and with all the pace and suspense of a classic thriller, this a unique, cross-genre story that turns out to have the warmest, kindest and wisest heart.

(Faber & Faber, hardback, £14.99)