Follow Me is an incredibly on-trend novel. It tells the story of Freddie, a young journalist supporting herself at Espress-Oh coffee shop who becomes embroiled in a serial killer’s lurid spree along with her former childhood friend Nasreen. Nasreen is now a police officer, holding her own in a male-dominated force that comes to rely on the social media know-how of Freddie in order to solve the brilliantly named Hashtag Murderer case.
The serial killer begins to target internet stereotypes – from a troll to a cat-lover, all the while posting chilling clues on Twitter which the police force try to figure out. Freddie is an unusual protagonist – I really liked her, she is unapologetic and far from squeaky-clean (we hear all about her Tinder dates and her cigarette cravings, which combined in my head to make her a sort of plucky, fish-out-of-water type). The murders themselves are brutal (the reference to ‘red ribbons’ of skin was particularly gruesome) and the social media angle of the whole book adds a very relatable aspect – there are constant references to WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram, the works, and each chapter begins with the murderous @Apollyon’s follower statistics (he only follows those he murders, but his followers rocket up into the thousands as news of the murder case spreads over Twitter).
Angela Clarke builds the tension well – the book picks up pace as the murders ramp up and I was suitably surprised by the ending. Clarke has tapped into a very real phenomenon and come up with an original concept in Follow Me, and not a word is wasted; her prose is tight and modern but she manages to inject a little of the deliciously traditional Agatha Christie to the story. I loved the way the police had to decipher the Sherlock Holmes Twitter clue; you could almost feel the sense of urgency as the characters got closer and closer to solving the mystery.
The best thing about this book for me was Freddie – her desire to get into journalism and her frustrations with writing and working for free were very credible and I enjoyed the way her mind constantly came up with news headlines to dramatise what was going on around her. The underlying mystery surrounding the breakdown of her teenage friendship with Nasreen worked well, although I felt a little more could have been made of the revelation when it came. I’ve heard some criticism of this book in terms of plausibility – would a police force employ an unknown to investigate crime scenes with them? – but for me this isn’t a problem, I’m perfectly happy to suspend disbelief for a while if the storyline is as compelling as Follow Me.