An unfamiliar photo causes a British woman to question her identity and investigate long-hidden family secrets in this debut thriller.
With her father recently having died in an unfortunate accident the day before her birthday, Seraphine Mayes is spending her compassionate leave going through his belongings at Summerbourne, the large Norfolk estate where she was raised. In his things, she finds a photograph she’s never seen before: It shows her mother, father, and older brother, Edwin, with her mother holding a newborn baby. What’s strange, however, is that Seraphine is a twin and there’s no telling whether the baby is her or her brother, Danny. Also, mere hours after the twins’ birth, their mother committed suicide by throwing herself off a cliff near the house. Why had she never seen this photograph, what did it reveal about her past, and who took it? As Seraphine delves deeper into the mysteries of her family, she finds more deaths, coverups, and mysterious disappearances than one ancestry should contain. At the center of all of this is one figure she’s never heard of: Laura, Edwin’s au pair the summer she and Danny were born. If she can just find her, maybe she’ll discover the secret of her birth. Rous’ debut novel is a whirlwind, twisting and turning with new revelations every few pages. Pinging between Seraphine’s search in the present and Laura’s experiences in the past, the reader is never entirely sure of what they know, as each chapter brings new information that may change previous certainties. The ambiance of Summerbourne and the family that inhabits it, from the folly to the gardens to the old gardener who speaks of fairies, adds that gothic touch to what might otherwise have been a generic family-mystery thriller.
A modern gothic suspense novel done right.