A sympathy card radically upends a daughter’s memories of her mum.
May McNabb was the best deputy head that the Blackfield Road Primary School ever had. Everyone said so as they politely munched the teacakes after her interment. But when her daughter Eve returned home and started reading through the condolence post, one letter brought her up short: Someone named Jean was regretting the awful mishap with John that scuttled their lesbian affair. Eve, who’d never thought of her mum as having Sapphic tendencies, had been told that her dad John died when she was a child. Determined to find the letter writer and learn more, Eve turns for help to policeman/philatelist Omkar Rani, an unhappily married Hindu. The two embark on a romantic odyssey that traces cartoonist John to his Scots roots, then to Australia, and pits Eve against the memories of a former schoolgirl-turned-vicar, a crusty old auntie and a retired, embittered headmistress who is soon smothered in her nursing-home bed. As usual with Barnard, the twists keep coming, the final one almost unbearably appalling.
If not quite top-notch for the Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement winner (A Fall from Grace, 2007, etc.), kilometers ahead of his compatriots and a pleasure for enthusiasts of the peel-the-layers-of-the-onion school.