In the wake of a neighbor’s apparent suicide, a young London family comes under suspicion as they uncover secret after secret about each other and their relationships in McPherson’s debut mystery.
Alex, Millicent, and their 11-year-old son, Max, have been dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy that has led, somewhat ironically, to Millicent’s success as an author of self-help books. When Alex and Max then discover the body of their neighbor Bryce, it appears to be a suicide. But as Alex and the police begin to dig deeper, they find connections between Millicent and the neighbor that suggest the truth might be much darker. McPherson’s mystery is carefully constructed, a literary house of cards. Layer upon layer of revelation increases the tension, but the characters behave so abominably that it becomes hard to stick with them to the end when the truth is revealed. In the era following the success of Gone Girl, there seems to be an overflow of psychological thrillers in which there is much mystery but no sympathetic character. This novel joins that category. The mystery of what happened to the neighbor is rather cleverly unspooled, but it becomes eclipsed by the outrageous and destructive antics of Alex and Millicent as well as the precocious Max. And once we know what happened to Bryce, the superficial response to this revelation is disturbing, neglecting to truly consider what it may mean for the future of the family. There are moments that almost seem like fantasy because they violate our expectations of how adults behave—but perhaps that's the attraction of this kind of thriller.
Schadenfreude in spades, but a little too dark to be a comfortable guilty pleasure.