Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
Recently divorced Ellen Sutherland is juggling single motherhood with a stressful job when she is contacted by a solicitor asking her to go to the will reading of the late Eudora Nash in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Ellen is shocked to discover that the old lady has left her a beautiful cottage that could turn her life around, but she still has no idea who Eudora Nash is, or why she has chosen to bequeath her home to Ellen.
Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country to spend some time in the house and go through Eudora Nash’s papers, trying to make sense of who the old lady was and how she was connected to Ellen. Interspersed with their story is that of John Michael Adams, convicted of a horrific crime at the age of eleven, forty-two years earlier. Initially presented as separate stories, the two plot threads gradually weave together to reveal a story of family secrets, revenge and forgiveness.
The opening scene of this powerful debut novel grabs the reader by the throat. Set in 1966, it describes the eleven-year-old Adams committing an act of revenge in the playground that kills one schoolmate and seriously injures another. From there, the narrative forks into the two stories: one describing the aftermath of the crime and how the parents of all the children concerned are affected; the second focussing on Ellen in 2008, as she explores the property she’s inherited and learns more about the woman who bequeathed it to her. And for the most part, the reader is as clueless as Ellen is as to how these stories connect.
In the end, however, all is revealed, in a satisfactory ending to an excellently written and thought-provoking mystery. There are a few moral issues to chew on along the way, too, not least of which is the thorny issue of whether children who commit violent crime should be held entirely responsible for their actions.
All in all this is a fabulous debut novel and a must-read for all thriller fans.