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.
A cleverly convoluted tale of an apparent suicide attempt told mainly in contrasting chapters by a seriously injured man's sister (who is virtually estranged from him) and his fiancée; the major venue is the converted church in a poor area of London in which the man and fiancée live in adjoining flats.
Contrasting narratives build up this psychological thriller. After an introduction with two distressing incidents from before this tale begins we have alternating chapters from the major protagonists with occasional interpolations by others. Jody, fiancée, and Mags, sister, are dealing with the traumatic injuries suffered by Abe; his head injuries mean that he will not survive as a conscious-being so a decision about turning off life support will need to be made. The layers of this onion are gradually unwrapped as the women separately reveal their relationships with Abe and also interact with each other.
Mags enjoys a successful professional life in the USA, and has returned to England only because she has been informed of her brother's accident on the flight of steps in the block of flats in which he lives. Her ignorance of all but her brother's early life contrasts to the recent intimacy of Jody's experience with Abe. The two women reveal by their actions and thoughts the developments of their own life experiences. Mags is suspicious of Jody's devotion to Abe and tries to find out about his accident by questioning the other inhabitants of the Church flats. St Jerome's is a deconsecrated Church hacked up into apartments which a Christian charity provides for vulnerable people - asylum seekers, people with mental health issues, former care-home children. The peculiarities of the dividing of the Church gives portions of large stained glass windows to the flats and necessitate very steep stairs rising up to four floors. The building has a major part to play in events. Jodie's fragility, physically and mentally, becomes clear as does Mags's confused and damaged psychology.
This is a gripping story set in a poor and challenging part of London near Kentish Town. Evaluating the accuracy of the stories people tell about themselves and what they have witnessed becomes very difficult and very engrossing for the reader. At the climax, the solution is a satisfying dénouement which pulls together the apparently discrete experiences of different people shown throughout the book