No one is above suspicion when a cozy scenario of suburban family accord morphs into a full-throttle psychological thriller, ring-fenced by a mother’s love.
Happy middle-class facades crumble and suspects multiply like flu germs in the nonstop second novel by British publishing sensation Lupton (Sister, 2011), quirkily narrated by the out-of-body spirit of Grace, a brain-dead mother in the hospital, badly hurt when rescuing her 17-year-old daughter Jenny from a burning school set alight by an arsonist. Jenny, whose spirit is also hovering, has three weeks to live unless a transplant heart can be found. Now the two observe Grace’s husband and son Adam trying to deal with the tragedy’s aftermath while the police—notably sister-in-law Sarah—investigate the fire. With each turn of the page, Lupton seems to add another element and motive to the mix: Jenny has a hate-mailing stalker; Adam has been bullied; Grace’s best friend has an abusive husband; the school is in financial trouble. Sarah, like Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, is the no-prisoners-taken investigating heroine who risks everything in pursuit of the truth, while Grace observes silently from her fourth dimension. The sinuous chain of plot twists reaches right to the story’s literally heart-rending conclusion.
Despite excessive length and the sense of suffocation that can arise from Grace’s interiorscape, this compulsive read confirms Lupton’s instinctive commercial flair.