The hothouse world—rife with endless conflicts, envy, one-upmanship, and hidden secrets—of an Edinburgh teenager’s monstrous minutiae.
To hear Kate Carr tell it, she’s one lucky girl. True, she’s growing up without the mother who vanished when she was a child, and she has to endure the stigma of having one leg shorter than the other. Her matchless talent for seeing herself as special, however, compensates for these minor deprivations. It’s not just that she sees herself as a diamond in the dustheap of her Edinburgh private school; when she goes home each night, it’s to a father she adores. As a charismatic preacher and a relentless charmer, Keith Carr is barely one step lower than the God he constantly invokes. His magical company is reward enough for the dull hours Kate’s forced to spend with the likes of her dull admirer Hilary Cross, her archrival Fiona McPherson, or the lumpish Moira MacMurray. But when Lydia Morris arrives one day from Devon, Kate’s world begins to change. To be sure, mousy Lydia doesn’t pose any obvious challenge to Kate, who remains secure in her confidence that, unlike all the other girls she knows, she has It. But their friendship, which Evans (Freezing, 1998, etc.) limns with a lacerating exactness that captures scheming Kate’s disdain, jealousy, possessiveness, fear, and plaintive affection for Lydia and everything she represents, will have you squirming. Readers wise in the ways of Evans’s master, Ruth Rendell, will see the climactic revelations coming long before they arrive. As in Rendell, though, the foreshadowing doesn’t diminish the power of her evocation of Kate’s world, but intensifies it, till you long for the release of the final conflagration.
A wonderfully creepy dose for people who look back on their childhood with uncritical nostalgia.