In the peace and quiet of her own home in Devon, Justine Merrison devotes all her time and energy to doing absolutely nothing at all. Having left a high paced life with a fabulous career as a TV executive in London, she determinedly pursues a state of “inactivity” in the cosy nest of mundane domesticity with her opera-singer partner Alex and daughter Ellen.
Thirteen-year old Ellen has just started a creative writing assignment at school. She’s hooked in the process of literary creation to the point that her obsession modifies her behaviour significantly. Justine becomes concerned when she notices that Ellen has become incredibly moody and aloof. She finds out that Ellen’s best friend George Donbavand has just been expelled, which explains why Ellen has been acting distant and irritable. Moreover, Ellen’s story seems alarmingly strange coming from a Year 9 student. The story is about a murder taking place in the Ingrey family. The idiosyncrasy of the Victorian-sounding names that Ellen has chosen and the use of Justine’s own house, Speedwell House, as the story’s setting, compels Justine to investigate the underlying meanings of Ellen’s bizarre and morbid story.
To make matters worse, Justine has been receiving calls from a stranger who claims to know everything about her life. These telephone calls get worse as the strange woman at the end of the line threatens her, warning her that if she does not leave her residence and return to her life in London, three deaths in the family will take place.
I particularly admire how Hannah sets this psychological thriller in the initially tranquil home of a seemingly ordinary family. It was rather nice to relate to the realism of dining table conversations and the many frustrations of the morning school run. This captivating novel is written in first person narrative which adds to the emotional and dramatic depth of the story. Hannah’s poised, thoughtful and diverse writing style compels you to keep turning the page.
My verdict: I could not put this book down. It was an incentive for me to get all my house chores done. Every chapter was met with giggles, gasps and an expression of befuddlement. If you enjoy thrillers and detective fiction from authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, you’d definitely love to read Hannah’s modern addition to a timeless literary genre.