Among his mother’s effects, Matt has found a packet of photographs of a boy who looks like him but almost certainly can’t be him. Who is it?
Willett’s (The Christmas Angel, 2011, etc.) latest is filled with slightly eccentric relationships. Milo, the patriarch of a rather patched-together family, lives in the High House at Exmoor with his devoted sister-in-law, Lottie. Their relationship is chaste, yet they understand and support each other as the best of all married couples. Venetia, Milo’s former mistress, has recently been widowed. Estranged from her own family, she is frustrated that Milo has also distanced himself from her, perhaps out of guilt that her husband was Milo’s army buddy. Milo’s difficult ex-wife, Sara, continues to meddle in his affairs, primarily to protect the interests of their son, Nick. In Sara’s eyes, Milo’s fortune could be lost to Matt and Imogen, two children Lottie brought into the family after their father’s death and whose mother has recently died. Yet each of the children suddenly faces crisis. Matt can’t write. Nick has gotten himself into some financial troubles that have strained his marriage to Alice to the breaking point. Arguments about where to move have unmoored Imogen’s marriage to Jules, and Nick’s reappearance has reawakened dangerous feelings. Weighing their dreams against cold reality, everyone converges upon the High House, where the sale of Milo’s Summer House offers salvation. Could its sale pull Nick out of his financial difficulties? Could Imogen and Jules buy it, even though only Imogen wants it? Could it be the place to relieve Matt’s writer’s block? In the midst of all of these personal difficulties, the mystery of the cache of strange photographs gets lost. Consequently, the ominous shadow Lottie’s second sight reveals to her, the shadow standing at Matt’s shoulder, evokes more curiosity than suspense.
The potential for an intriguing mystery is thwarted by sprawling character studies.