Having ended the saga of forensic psychologist Frieda Klein on a suitably harrowing note (Day of the Dead, 2018), French produces a stand-alone that’s just as suspenseful, especially because there’s no franchise heroine whose survival is assured.
Summoned by a peremptory text to her lover’s Covent Garden pied à terre the morning after they’ve enjoyed an assignation as satisfying as it is secret, Neve Jennifer Connolly finds Saul Stevenson bashed to death with a hammer. At the point of dialing 999, Neve takes a moment to think what the news of her affair and her inevitable involvement in the police inquiry will do to her husband, mostly jobless painter/decorator/illustrator Fletcher Connolly, their two young sons, Rory and Connor, and mainly their daughter, Mabel, a child with a troubled teen history who’s just now packing her things to move to university—and then decides on a completely different plan of action. She removes every trace that she’s ever been in the place, scrubs it clean of her fingerprints (and everyone else’s), then goes back home, returns to her domestic rounds, and is lying in bed next to Fletcher that night before she’s realizing that she’s left a unique and easily identified bangle bracelet at the flat. That’s only the first of many twists best left to readers to discover as French ramps up the nightmare sense of claustrophobia that dogs Neve’s every movement and intensifies each pang of guilt and second-guessing. Neve is swiftly entangled in a thicket of lies to DCI Alastair Hitching; to her co-workers at Sans Serif, the partnership Saul’s firm Redfern Publishers took over; to Saul’s wife, Bernice, who confides in Neve that she thinks her husband’s been having an affair and asks her to look out for who his partner might have been; and to the very family she’s straining her every nerve to protect.
Long before the end, the sorely tried heroine realizes, “I can’t trust anyone.” Neither can the expertly manipulated reader.