A chance meeting in the Marks and Spencer food hall puts a deeply troubled young woman in a dangerous position.
While she works part-time in a charity shop, Jessie Constable must deal every day with her disabling phobia—a fear of feathers. Shopping in the food court, she spots a big red-haired man she’d seen before. In fact, she’d once even offered to buy a cake for Ruby, his little girl. Sitting with his head in his hands while Ruby looks on, sculptor Gus King suddenly tells Jessie that his wife, Becky, has left him. Since he’s obviously in shock, Jessie drives him home, making the long trip from Dumfries out to a country cottage on the water. Soon afterward, the police arrive to tell Gus that Becky has died in what looks like a suicidal car crash. Somehow Jessie gets roped into staying to help care for Ruby and her baby brother, Dillon. As she does her best to learn the household’s routine, she notices that not everything she learns about the family makes sense. Even though Becky’s best friend Ros had apparently left for Poland, a young Pole Jessie meets hanging around the caravan site next door tries to tell her in his very limited English that Ros would never have done that. Jessie and Gus quickly become lovers, and he gradually draws the story of her feather phobia out of her. Each telling, she acknowledges, is different, and years of therapy have allowed her to lead only a semi-normal life. For his part, Gus maintains that Becky would never have killed herself. All the pieces of the puzzle add up to more confusion for Jessie, who no longer knows whom to believe.
McPherson’s second stand-alone (As She Left It, 2013, etc.) is a tour de force, a creepy psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.