In French’s latest thriller/chiller, six London housemates are in search of a murderer, except one of them isn’t searching all that hard.
It’s a young person’s job—bike messenger—and Astrid Bell, being young, athletic and something of a free spirit, likes it a lot. Actually, Astrid likes just about everything in her life, especially the people with whom she shares the big old house on Maitland Road. She finds them admirable, able to rise to whatever’s required on behalf of compatibility. But they’re not flawless. Mick, for instance, is a mite stand-offish, Pippa’s sloppy and Miles—house-owner and ex-lover—can be a bit awkward on occasion. Still, on the whole, Astrid’s truly pleased with them, considers them chums, real mates, not merely housemates. And then slowly, almost imperceptibly, change happens. Did it begin with Astrid’s cycling accident? Perhaps, though no one thought so at the time. Unwisely, a neighbor left her car door open long enough for Astrid to plow a bike into it. The tumble that resulted was more spectacular than serious—a few colorful bruises, no broken bones. What made the incident memorable was its awful aftermath. A few days later, Margaret Farrell, the neighbor, was beaten to death. After that, murder follows murder follows murder, and suddenly Astrid—bewildered and beset—finds she can’t explain herself to a growing number of skeptical cops. All she knows is that on Maitland Road an atmosphere that was once beneficent, even sweet-natured, has turned harrowingly hostile.
French (Losing You, 2008, etc.) serves up another of her wonderfully sympathetic damsels in distress—no one does that better—but then undermines her with some questionable plotting.