In a departure from her excellent police procedurals (The Sideman, 2018, etc.), Ramsay presents a chilling psychological thriller told in two voices.
Megan Melvick has reluctantly returned to Benbrae, the family estate in Scotland, because her older sister is dying. The beautiful Melissa tormented Megan when they were children, and Megan is still haunted by the terrible events that occurred on the day of Melissa's wedding five years ago: the death of Carla, her best friend, and the disappearance of Megan and Melissa's mother, Beth. Even so, Megan sits with her dying sister, who whispers an apology at the end. It’s always been assumed that Beth ran off with a lover, and Megan is devastated when she doesn’t turn up for her daughter’s funeral. Megan's father, Ivan, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, has meanwhile found consolation with Beth’s friend Heather Kincaid. Suicide runs in the Melvick family, and Megan’s psychological problems—she's been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder—may date from her grandfather’s suicide, which she vaguely remembers in flashbacks. Megan’s father wants her to stay and help run the estate, but the memories of Benbrae that begin to flood her are increasingly painful. Carla, whose voice appears in italicized sections interspersed with Megan’s, grew up living with her dishonest mother, Deborah, who seems to have reformed with age and, since Beth left, has worked as the Melvicks’ housekeeper. Carla recalls a wild youth that includes having sex with Melissa’s husband on their wedding day only a few hours before she was killed by an explosion on the boat she was on in the loch. Add a police officer with doubts about both Beth’s disappearance and Carla’s death to the volatile mix of visitors staying for Melissa's funeral and you get a combustible brew.
A wild ride packed with mysterious questions and shocking answers.