A Japanese graduate student convinces herself that a small Scottish town is filled with dark secrets.
Keiko Nishisato has come to the University of Edinburgh for her Ph.D. She dreams of a wise adviser, friendly fellow students, and a busy life in a city steeped in history. Instead, her adviser seems uninterested and her fellow students, cold. Even worse, her grant from the Painchton Traders provides her with lodgings above a butcher shop in the little town of Painchton, a long bus ride from Edinburgh. The leader of the Traders, Jimmy McKendrick, and his fellow board members have been attracted to her thesis because it has something to do with food, a subject dear to their hearts. So her apartment’s fridge and cupboards are stuffed with every imaginable foodstuff, all provided by the Traders. The Pooles, who own the butcher shop, include a widow and her two sons, Malcolm, who seems obsessed with meat, and Murray, a classic-motorcycle buff who’s returned to the shop only since his father died. Keiko makes friends with Fancy Clark, a young mother recently returned to the village, and Murray, who helps her exercise every evening in the makeshift gym where he keeps his motorbikes. A threatening note under her radiator and stories about three young women who’ve vanished from the village suggest some deep, dark mystery. Using questionnaires the villagers fill out for her thesis helps her get some insight into the people who are willing to help, but her discomfort only increases. Are the villagers really hiding some awful secret? Or are Keiko’s imagination and the strangeness of a different culture getting the better of her?
The latest from this master of psychological thrillers (The Day She Died, 2014, etc.) is more cerebral than physical. But every page will draw you in and deepen your dread.