Jessie has made a very bold move in deciding to move to the city of Brighton. Since fleeing an abusive relationship she’s been living with her parents. Now, she feels it’s time to move forward with her life and she always enjoyed the vibrancy of the city. Her best friend Priya would also be nearby for support. So, she starts to look for a house share and through Ian at a letting agency she finds Maver Place. The house is a little bit shabby, but the room is a good size for her limited budget and she decides to go ahead. She is immediately drawn to housemate Lauren, who is friendly and offers to cook a meal to welcome her to the house. Marcus lives in the downstairs room and seems to keep to himself. Sofie is mainly at her boyfriend Henry’s house. This leaves Lauren and Jessie to bond.
The author cleverly builds the unease right from the start with very small incidents that could have innocent explanations: Marcus suddenly appearing behind her in the bathroom mirror; her laptop not being where she left it; a favourite bracelet missing. I found myself suspecting every one of the housemates at this stage, but for very different reasons. Sofie, who is usually bohemian, pink haired, and pierced suddenly starts copying Jessie’s look. She dyes her hair and cuts a fringe, then turns up in a polo neck that looks very like one of Jessie’s. I wondered if there was a ‘single, white, female’ vibe going on. On the other hand her boyfriend Henry is quite well-to-do and his mother definitely doesn’t approve of his choice in girlfriends. Maybe Sofie simply feels that Jessie’s style might be more acceptable? Marcus appears to skulk in his room mostly, doesn’t eat with the others and has strange, noisy nocturnal habits. It’s hard to know whether he’s a threat or is simply troubled. Added to these suspicions, Jessie finds a locket with an M on the front, lodged down the radiator. Lauren says it must belong to Magda the previous tenant of that room, and that she left in a hurry in the middle of the night. She left them in the lurch by not paying their share of the bills. Jessie wonders why someone would leave something so precious behind, but looking at the piles of post with many different names it seems Magda isn’t the only one.
Then the messages start, adding yet another layer of tension. There’s a What’sApp message here and there, and an email all seemingly from her ex, Matthew. Lauren ignores them at first, but as the pressure builds she starts to become paranoid. Could Matthew be causing these other strange occurrences and if so, how? Lauren sometimes thinks she’s seen him on the street, but she’s probably mistaken. When convinced by Lauren to go on a night out, Jessie feels uncomfortable. People can hide in crowds and anyone could be in a club. Strangely, they do run into Magda and her friends. Jessie can sense that Magda is very uncomfortable about meeting her old housemates, but it could be because she owes them money? Yet, she seems to be more fearful than guilty. Jessie tells Magda that she left a Facebook message about her missing locket, before her friends pull her away. Hopefully, they’ll be able to meet up and talk about her experience of living at Maver Place. Later, Jessie is feeling drunk and simply wants to get home to sleep. She can’t find the others so walks home alone, it’s isn’t too late, and not that far. As she’s passing Brighton Pavillion and thinking about how much she loves the building, she’s suddenly struck from behind. After several blows, Jessie is left unconscious at the edge of the grounds. Is it something to do with the coincidence of seeing Magda, could Matthew have been following her, or is this the work of someone closer to home?
If it sounds like my mind was working overtime, it really was. There was a point in the book where I felt completely disoriented with everything that was going on. I guess that’s how the author wanted us to feel, to understand Jessie’s experience. There were points where I was mentally screaming at her to pack a bag and get out of town! Even minor characters behaved in ways that aroused my suspicions. Quick chapters kept me reading and each one turned the mystery in a different direction. I was so confused with who was imitating who. The last few chapters had to be devoured all at once, just so I could find out who did it and get some sleep. It made me wonder whether we truly know the people we live with. When my stepdaughter goes off to university I’ll be using my counselling skills to vet any of her future housemates too. This is the sort of thriller that’s great to read over a weekend, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.