When a skull is discovered in the lake by a manor house, a 30-year-old mystery comes to light.
When Jo’s husband dies suddenly, she reluctantly brings her 10-year-old daughter, Ruby, home to Lake Hall. Despite the seeming affluence of her aristocratic family, Jo’s memories of her childhood are mostly unhappy, especially after her beloved nanny, Hannah, left under mysterious circumstances. Despite her mother’s frosty warnings, Jo takes Ruby out on the lake one day, and they unearth a human skull. The detective who comes to investigate has a chip on his shoulder about the upper class and would like nothing better than to prove the village rumors that the Holt family has casually disposed of inconvenient bodies throughout the years. Jo’s mother knows exactly to whom the skull belongs—and she wants to keep the truth from Jo as long as possible. Jo herself suspects it might belong to Hannah, who never would have left her voluntarily—but then suddenly, out of the blue, a handsome older woman turns up on their doorstep, claiming to be Hannah. No one is quite sure what to believe, but Jo, desperately wanting to rekindle the closeness she once had with Hannah and chafing against the coldness of her mother, invites the woman into her home to help care for Ruby—a mistake, we know, of catastrophic proportions. Macmillan (I Know You Know, 2018, etc.) strives to create a gothic atmosphere, but the setting falls short of true creepiness. Her decision to switch narrators does add layers to the story, but the voices all seem to tell more than they show, and no character is sympathetic enough, or charismatic enough, to really draw the reader into the mystery.
Art forgery! False identities! Adultery! Murder! But in the end, sadly, it’s more melodrama than true thriller.