Kathleen Barber’s Follow Me is about an as “of the moment” crime novel as one is likely to find. It’s exploration of the perils of social media will appeal to both those who are addicted to modern connectivity trends as well as those who are justifiably wary of such constant exposure. Whether it is #trending topics on Twitter or foodie photographs on Instagram, evaporating videos on TikTok or old-school Facebook status updates, the invasion of social media has forever altered daily life. And with that comes some scary realities. Follow Me focuses on the concepts of cyber-stalking, obsession, popularity, and the need to belong.
Whereas most of us use social media as a means of distraction, a way to keep in touch with distant relations, and as a method of documenting our lives – albeit a skewed version of such – some people crave the attention it brings and can actually make a career from the exposure. Audrey Miller is that type of person. She’s a powerful influencer because of her vast online reach and her ability to sell her audience on whatever product or behavior she wishes to endorse. Now, Audrey has now parlayed that “talent” into a dream job at a DC-area museum.
Relocating to this metropolis brings Audrey back into contact with her one-time best friend Cat. While she is an accomplished attorney, Cat is otherwise the polar opposite of Audrey. Cat is shy, insecure, and always aware of being judged by all the eyes in the room – not in the glorious “look at me” way that Audrey manifests, but rather in a more “please let me hide in that corner” vibe. However, Cat is also smart enough to recognize that hanging with Audrey might bring her out of her shell, bring about some positive attention, and if nothing else, Cat is at least less lonely with Audrey around.
As wonderful as being the center of attention might seem to some folks, it brings with it a dark-side. And herein lies Kathleen Barber’s modus operandi. Tales of stalkers are nothing new in crime fiction, so it is to Barber’s credit that she has managed to bring something fresh to an over-done trope. Unlike Caroline Kepnes’ iconic You, where the creepy, but strangely alluring, Joe Goldberg is never less than the center of attention, Kathleen Barber only gives her menacing stalker an occasional point-of-view moment in chapters assigned the simple designation of “HIM.” For much of the novel Barber keeps the identity of this character a secret – not just from Audrey, but from the reader as well. Believe me, there are no shortage of suspects (of every shape, size, and gender), but there are also plenty of well-placed clues designed to lead readers to the truth just moments before others reach the same conclusion.
Part of what allows Follow Me to work so well is the pacing. Kathleen Barber keeps chapters short and never lingers over new developments for long. This makes for a rapid reading pace. Ironically, working one’s way through Follow Me is a bit like watching an old-school polaroid photo develop – first there is nothing but grey, until slowly the outline of larger objects begin to take shape, and finally the details start to emerge. Once the whole image is exposed, there is no forgetting how you got there or the resulting iconography. Kathleen Barber’s Follow Me is a of cautionary tale of constant surveillance wrapped in an enjoyable exploration of social media obsession and its link to stalkerism.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.