Would you play a game to save your life?

I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and the premise for ‘Play for me’ was definitely intriguing: ‘LJ must give the performance of a lifetime, if she wants to avoid a deadly final curtain call…’

What’s it about?

LJ’s life is going downhill – fast. She wants to be a musician but her main income is from working as a waitress, a job she cares so little for that she can’t be bothered to turn up on time. Her boyfriend, Simon, is as disinterested in her as she is in her job and spends most of their time together fiddling with his phone.

When she’s offered the chance to perform privately for a fee, LJ hopes this will turn her life around, but as the performance begins she realises that this will be a show like no other and she’ll be lucky to escape with her life…

What’s it like?

Initially intriguing but ultimately unconvincing.

The structure of LJ’s performance creates interest and invites the reader to contemplate serious questions of responsibility to oneself and to others, then there’s some genuine tension as LJ and the reader try to work out whose side Keith is on – and whether he is really a separate entity from the mysterious Audience – but the ending felt ridiculous to me and I just didn’t believe it. While I appreciated that the reveal allowed the villain to know what they knew and do what they did, it stretched my credulity too far. That said, I thought the epilogue was an absolutely fitting coda to this story.

Personally, I found some of the writing awkward and unconvincing. At one point a character reflects on their experience of IVF as follows:

“With each unsuccessful attempt it gets easier to move on to the next.”

I’ve never experienced IVF myself but this sentiment runs absolutely contrary to everything I have ever heard expressed about it. Moments like this jarred and took me out of the story, which was a shame because the premise was an interesting one.

What I did like was the way White makes us complicit with a killer. LJ is selfish and preoccupied with her own miseries, and though readers must feel some sympathy for her predicament, many will also be hoping she will learn a valuable lesson!

Final thoughts

This is a quick read with short chapters that encourage you to find out what will happen to LJ and who is behind this performance.

If you want an easy read with plenty of twists then you may find the narrative developments of ‘Play for Me’ sufficiently satisfying.

‘Play for Me’,
C. P. White,
Nevno Publishing, 2021
Many thanks to C. P. White for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.