Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.
The book opens with a young girl arriving at the front door of an isolated house in falling snow and refusing to go away when the sole woman inhabitant of the house begs her to do so. The psychological roller coaster when she is admitted leaves the reader totally confused as she produces multiple stories about her reasons for being there and her past experiences.
Stella is alone in her isolated and stark modernist house on the outskirts of London as snow falls and the steep road to the house become treacherous. Suddenly the doorbell rings, and rings. A young girl is outside to whom Stella speaks via the answer phone. The girl refuses to leave and sits with the snow falling on her underclad figure on the front doorstep. Eventually Stella lets her in.
The girl, Blue Cunningham, tells Stella various stories about herself and her reasons for being there. These tales involve serious allegations about Stella's husband, a psychologist. Stella, herself, is suffering from severe agoraphobia and can no longer work (she was also a clinical psychologist working in her husband's practice.)
This is the scenario as the two women remember past events, we can only assume accurately, and they communicate fractiously with each other. There are numerous flashbacks concerning various clinical sessions with patients - some from two or three years earlier and some undated. The vivid setting of this cold minimalist house emphasises the raw emotions of the protagonists. Understanding what has really happened and disentangling motivations proves very difficult as dark and tangled issues - many sexual - swim towards the surface. In these flashbacks Max, Stella's husband becomes a powerful presence.
This is a thriller but it is slow burning for quite a long time - indeed the wait for developments is almost agonisingly tense. I did feel that perhaps action took rather too long to come but the author probably feels that the gripping psychological revelations provide a different type of tension. The insight into complex mental issues at the heart of the tale is very impressive so it is not surprising to read that Luana Lewis is a clinical psychologist.
This is chilling in its reflection of psychological trauma but no one character gains a full claim on the reader's emotions as the skein of abnormalities is twisted one way and then the other.
There is a curtain of confusion around the two women who are being treated with powerful drugs. The reader has to decide who is lying, who is manipulating and who, therefore, are the real victims. This confusion is continued to the very end of the book.