A British art historian tries to prove the innocence of a young man she has every right to hate in this genre debut from hitherto pseudonymous Gray.
Grace Neville thinks she knows what heartbreak is when Archie, her husband of 13 years, leaves her for a younger woman. The safe, secure world she’s tried to build after her nomadic childhood vanishes in an instant. But after she struggles to rebuild it, the murder of her daughter, Tara, shatters her. Even the trial and conviction of Jordan Dukes, Tara’s hood of a boyfriend and presumptive killer, brings Grace no comfort or satisfaction. Nor does the alcohol she drinks to numb herself, the support of her bohemian mother and sister, a new hairdo, shopping expeditions in the quaintly named towns of Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh, or her sporadic work at an art gallery. The one person who gets past her wall of grief is Allan, Jordan’s father, who insists that his son didn't kill Tara. Against her family’s advice, Grace visits Jordan in prison and comes away willing to entertain a different theory. Her belief in the criminal justice system is undermined when she finds out that the police have been trying to bag Jordan for a long time and would have seized any excuse. Trying to find out the dirty secret that might have accounted for Tara’s increasingly moody and difficult behavior gives Grace a new purpose. But she’s still held back by her feelings for Archie, despite ever growing evidence of how weak, shallow, and selfish he is. Grace can’t stop loving him until a further betrayal makes even her begin to doubt him. Two unlikely white knights, a convenient coincidence, and a revelation from left field finally bring Grace more healing peace and acceptance than her readers are likely to enjoy.
Although the protagonist’s misery is understandable, it’s still a relief when she finally starts rising above it. If only she could do the same with the awkward plot.