Mummy’s dead, daddy’s on the run, and the kids are seething.
When their aunt and uncle fly in from South Africa to tend to them, 14-year-old Juanita (Johnny) and 11-year-old Emerald (Em) are eerily quiet, stupefied by family tragedy. Their mother Serena flaunted her farmboy lover Nicky until, most everyone agrees, her wealthy grocery magnate husband Robert stabbed her 13 times. But why use two different knives? wonders Jack Deacon of the Dimmock CID. Meanwhile, Jack’s good friend Brodie Farrell, who finds things for a living, is looking for Serena’s sister at the request of her brother-in-law, Hugo Daws. She suggests that he hire math teacher Daniel Hood to tutor his nieces until the family situation simmers down. When Daniel takes up residence, matters quickly escalate: The girls accost a burglar at 3 a.m., and Nicky has a terrible motorbike accident, delighting the girls, who insist he murdered mummy. But then why did daddy run away? As the awful truth descends on Brodie and Daniel, they are powerless to stop the bad seeds, who have resurrected their mum’s childhood creation, the Cheyne Wood Phantom, to kill; abducted their aunt at knifepoint; set fire to their house after locking Brodie and Daniel in the attic; and unknowingly driven daddy to suicide.
Creepy kids notwithstanding, the true horror here stalks Daniel, who must surmount past demons (True Witness, 2002, etc.) to face the moral condemnation of his best friend.