Thirteen years later, a young woman who survived the slaughter of her family returns to the scene of the crime.
Her name was Esme, and she was nearly 14. She had a mum and a dad, 8-year-old twin sisters, and a big brother named Joe—until the night she went down from her bedroom and found them all shot with a rifle. Now her name is Alison. She works in accounting at a publishing house in London and has no family at all, except a father in an institution—a vegetable after the botched suicide attempt that followed the murders. Kent's (The Killing Room, 2015, etc.) latest psychological thriller opens as Alison's boyfriend, Paul, invites her to attend a wedding in her old hometown of Saltleigh. " 'The wedding's on Saturday but I thought we'd go a few days ahead of time. Tuesday,' said Paul, his voice warm now, reassured. 'Make a, you know, a little holiday of it.' " It won't be much of a holiday, actually, as the many dark secrets of this "poxy little dump" of a village spill out and new crimes begin to pile up as soon as they arrive. Alison's tragedy was one of many: there was a baby who died in an electrical fire, a boy killed in a hit-and-run, a girl with leukemia, a pedophile, an assortment of drunks and suicides. As soon as Alison gets to town and her cover begins to crumble, she runs into her old best friend, the detective who investigated the case, and other townspeople who pop in to offer clues and accusations. Just about everyone knows things about Alison's family that she does not. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has a disturbingly close friendship with the bride-to-be.
Bleak, suspenseful writing keeps the momentum high despite a surfeit of characters and contrivances.