A reporter, a young mother and a shadowy band of former schoolmates play out a drama to an end none of them quite anticipated.
Still reeling from the miscarriage that soured her marriage, Kate Turner, author of the weekly column Diary of a Short-Fused Female, thrashes about miserably, throwing sparks equally at her feisty mother Bel, Bel’s meddlesome pal Sandra West, her wimpy father Michael and his selfish new girlfriend Delia. Equally miserable is Laurie Moon, who defied her parents by carrying her precious son Sam to term only to give in to their bullying by placing him at Rudolf Mann House because he has Down’s syndrome. Kate’s and Laurie’s chapters are interleaved with descriptions of “The Game,” a sinister enterprise devised by four residents of Challow Hall Children’s Home under the direction of Ralph, a staff member. Fueled by clandestine midnight readings of Lord of the Flies, the impoverished and abused inmates rename themselves Roger, Simon, Pig and Jack. In these identities they plan a series of strikes as cunning as they are sadistic against enemies they perceive as abusers. Inevitably, the three stories collide in a way that leaves no one unscathed.
The big surprise from Norman (Last Run, 2007, etc.) isn’t at all clever; it’s illogical rather than ironic, leading to a climax that’s irredeemably creepy.