This was a thriller where I thought I’d guessed the outcome, but the author still managed to surprise me right at the end. Sadie and Will move to an island off the state of Maine with their two sons. The couple’s relationship is strained due to Will having an affair, so when Will’s sister Alice dies, leaving them her house they make a decision to have a fresh start. However, the fresh start isn’t that simple. Alice committed suicide in the house after years of struggling with the pain of fibromyalgia. Also, the house comes with guardianship of her traumatised daughter Imogen. Within weeks of them arriving, one of their neighbours is murdered and Sadie starts to feel uneasy. Is there a killer living on their street? She is also worried about Imogen who is openly hostile and very secretive about her whereabouts.
The author creates a a very uneasy atmosphere. I imagined all the action taking place in fog, the sort that seems to hang heavily around water. It is disorienting and can make you see things that aren’t there. Sadie is mired in this fog, unable to sleep in case of intruders and constantly feeling something is going on, just out of her sight. Sadie is unsure of Imogen immediately, because she is taciturn, secretive and never seems to connect with her. She hears her downstairs speaking to Will and the boys, so thinks Imogen dislikes her. Unwisely, she decides to check out Imogen’s bedroom while she’s out. The tension in this small scene is brilliant, I was on tenterhooks as Imogen walked around the room with her glass of red wine. I imagined her spilling it. When Imogen returns home unexpectedly Sadie only just gets out without being seen. In one of the creepiest scenes, when Sadie wakes that night she sees Imogen in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, watching her. She had left her glass of wine in the rush to leave the room.
I noticed some strange occurrences very early on, that seemed incidental to the story. Sadie and Will’s son Otto is reprimanded at school for taking a weapon in his bag. By way of explanation, he tells the school his Mum told him to carry it because of bullying. Sadie is horrified and knows she would never tell a child to do this, but Otto is adamant. He is indignant and calls his Mum a liar. Her youngest son Todd asks her to play a game with him, but she can’t recall ever playing it. Sadie works as a GP, one day when she is at work, she finds herself behind by several hours. All of this works towards creating an atmosphere of being unsure who to trust. When Sadie finds some disturbing drawings up in the attic, she starts to wonder. Otto is the artist in the family, and after the recent incident at school, could he be disturbed in some way? Did Imogen draw them, and if she did could she have more to do with her Mum’s suicide than we think? She’s also suspicious of Will. He’s always been attractive to women, but Sadie is unsure whether geography will change his tendency to respond. She noticed him talking to Morgan next door before her murder and had been worried she might be another rival.
Interspersed with Sadie’s narrative are two others; Camille is a bold, sensual and unpredictable woman and Mouse is a timid young girl, experiencing terrible abuse at the hands of her stepmother. These narratives muddy the water further. Camille is clearly the other woman but we don’t know if her name is a pseudonym. I wondered if Will’s mistress had followed them to Maine, or whether Morgan had a middle name. With Mouse I thought we might be exploring a character’s childhood, maybe Imogen’s or Camille. Sadie starts to act irrationally in her need to solve who killed their next door neighbour. She’s convinced someone she lives with is a murderer and starts to investigate, often clashing with the police. She stops working and puts all her time into it, but as a reader I was becoming more and more convinced that she is unaware of her own part in events. Mary Kubica is great at showing strained family dynamics and deteriorating relationships. Even though I was pretty sure I had this worked out she still managed to surprise me at the end. It’s clear some form of mental illness is at work here, but I kept veering between Imogen and Sadie herself. The competing narratives also played their part in muddying the waters, and kept me guessing. This was a diverting read with enough psychological suspense to keep me interested, and a heroine I was always a little bit unsure of.
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for my review.
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