We are delighted to announce that debut novelist Nicola Martin will be appearing at Greenway Literary Festival this year, our partnership with the National Trust. Here, our Chair Heather Norman-Soderlind reviews Dead Ringer.

The Doppelgänger is a staple of gothic fiction. Past masters of literature such as Byron, Goethe and Dostoyesvsky have all played with our imagination that we might each have a spirit double out there. This notion, further bedevilled with the popular idea of the Evil Twin and brought bang up to date using internet facial recognition and matching technology, seems like a story just waiting to be written for the 21st Century reader. Dead Ringer is the debut crime novel of Bristol-based writer Nicola Martin, published in February by Contraband. Nicola’s background in marketing communications and graphic design shines through the prose style which is sharp, pacey and clear as a bell to read.

Ella meets Jem through a MeetYourDouble app and agrees to travel from a sleepy Cumbrian town to the heart of London clubland to enjoy an evening out. Polar opposites in character but dead ringers to look at, rich, super-confident Jem is soon persuading trailer-park, wallflower Ella to adopt Jem’s stylish dress and outrageous make-up. It’s not long before they agree to swap each other’s lives for a bit –just for a break, a ‘holiday’ from themselves. But there are third parties involved of course, not least Jem’s gorgeous boyfriend Katsu who finds himself drawn to ‘Twinnie’ and she to him. The novel takes us on a thrilling interchange between Jem as Ella and Ella as Jem until the reader too begins to find each Alter Ego believable and interchangeable yet knows that this pack of lies cannot end well.

This is a novel to pack for a long train journey or a break away. It’s a page turner which will keep you enthralled and play mind-games with your head. Fascinating too to discover that when Nicola Martin started to write Dead Ringer, no such Doppelgänger app existed; it was the product of her imagination. Unsurprisingly, there is one now called twinstrangers.net. This reviewer advises you to steer well clear of it.

Dead Ringer is avaialble now, published by Contraband.

Nicola will be appearing at Greenway Literary Festival at 3.30 pm on 10th June. Tickets are available here.

Heather Norman-Soderlind.