Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
I don’t know whether to call this mystery or horror or psychological thriller. It has elements of all three, a deliciously evil blend that might remind some of The Silence of the Lambs (a book actually mentioned in this novel). Be prepared. Harris’ novel was simple in comparison to this one!
Elisabet was in a terrible accident; she’s now an amnesiac. Lillian is a prisoner, locked in a basement cell without food and water. Graeme is Elisabet’s ex; their divorce hasn’t been finalized, so he takes his amnesiac wife “home” to abuse her. Kristen is Elisabet’s step-daughter; she hates her second mum and loves Daddy. These interesting characters drive this story of violence, jealousy, and revenge.
The author cleverly takes her readers and these characters along a road of discovery, a road filled with twists and turns, multiple detours in space and time, and shifting points of view. I can’t say much more in order to avoid spoilers, but I will state that things aren’t what they seem. I began to figure out what’s really happening about halfway through in one of the flashbacks, but even then there were many surprises left.
Although the story is set in New Zealand’s Christchurch after the quake, it could easily take place almost anywhere—you won’t learn much about New Zealand except that its justice system is very British. It’s a story of lies, intrigue, suspense, pain, and torture. It’s a mystery that portrays the darkness hidden in some people’s lives.
There are some annoying quirks. The most egregious were abrupt changes from third person to first, often in the same sentence. Flashbacks and flash forwards often seem to overlap. Call these stylistic flourishes if you like, but you have to pay attention. (I took notes while reading, even the first time.) There are also curious word substitutions (“change” incorrectly replacing “chance,” for example—word processors can’t catch those, only human editors). There weren’t enough of these quirks to lose me, though.
If I were to pick one word to describe this novel, I’d pick “intense.” My second choice would be “weird,” not in any paranormal sense but in a good way. The intensity and weirdness slowly build. There isn’t much action, but there’s a lot of quiet terror. I’ve told you who the main characters are—the author jumps back and forth between them—but you have to determine what the crimes are and then who’s guilty of them. You, the reader, have to be on a mission of discovery. Have fun!