Littlewood’s debut novel takes a young widow and her son back to a town she knew in her childhood.
Cass and Ben are finding the going tough in the little town of Darnshaw, where Cass spent part of her youth with her mother and uncompromising father. Although her memories of the town are mostly black, she has inexplicably returned there to give Ben a new perspective on life following the death of his father, Pete, who was killed in Afghanistan. Ben doesn’t want to be there, and he makes it clear, particularly when they discover that the mill, which has been converted to apartments, appears to be deserted except for the two of them. And when the pair are snowed in and must walk to the small local school, they find themselves becoming more and more isolated from both the outside world and each other. Soon, Ben has made some new friends, but his behavior becomes outrageous. Cass chalks it all up to his being upset about his father and the move, and she doesn’t do anything about his increasingly bizarre actions until a lack of phone service interferes with her business efforts. After losing what appears to be the one genuine friend she might be making in that town, she drags Ben away and tries to walk to another town, only to find that Ben refuses to leave. Later, a series of strange and grisly discoveries confirms that nothing in Darnshaw is as it appears to be. Cass proves improbably slow on the uptake, shrugging off sinister incidents and ignoring her own instincts to the point where it becomes hard, if not impossible, to sympathize with her. Impatient readers will have figured out long before Cass finally connects the dots that she should have snatched the kid and run.
Readers who prefer clueless heroines, pointless gore and evil mumbo jumbo will find a veritable feast in Littlewood’s debut.