Until the moment he receives a frantic call from his father, Daniel believed his parents were headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement. They had sold their home and business in London and bid farewell to England, setting off to begin life anew on a remote, bucolic farm in rural Sweden.Writing
But with that phone call, everything changes. Your mother's not well, his father tells him. She's been imagining things-terrible, terrible things. She has had a psychotic breakdown and been committed to a mental hospital.
Daniel prepares to rush to Sweden on the first available flight. Before he can board the plane, his father contacts him with even more frightening news: his mother has discharged herself from hospital and he doesn't know where she is.
Then his mother calls:
"I'm sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad. I don't need a doctor. I need the police. I'm about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow."
Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother's unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a horrible crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.
I was impressed. The Nesties have strongly recommended Smith's other books, and I've had an interest in them, but it took this one to get me to break down and give him a try. We've got an unreliable narrator, the potential for either serious mental illness or a deep conspiracy, and family drama - all my favorite things. At first I was really put off by the style of the writing. We have our narrator, Daniel, who tells the story in straightforward fashion. But his standard narration is broken up by the story being told to him by his mother. Her portions don't include quotation marks, so it took me a while to catch on to the difference between Daniel's first person narration and his mother's first person narration to Daniel. It was tricky for a while distinguishing between the two, but once I was familiar with each voice, I could tell them apart with no problem.
In addition to my confusion over the two voices, I also had a hard time getting off the ground with this story. The first quarter of the book dragged a bit and I wasn't totally into it. That said, by the end of the first hundred pages I was hooked. I stayed up way too late the night before a weekend trip to finish it, which is highly unusual for me, but I just HAD to know how it ended. It's a book where the tension just continuously builds until the reveal at the end. And I honestly had no idea which direction the story would take. The ending was a complete shock, and one that made the slow start worthwhile.
For fans of psychological suspense, this is a must-read. I'd compare it to books by Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott, although maybe not quite as dark. I'd also say it reads like Until You're Mine, How to Be A Good Wife, and The Silent Wife. It has some violence, some sex, and some bad language, but nothing that I'd consider extreme.
Thank to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.