The legacy of a violent death 12 years ago has even creepier resonances for a misfit London family.
Guy Rolland’s drowning in his bathtub left his womenfolk shattered. His wife Beatrix descended into madness. Her sister Pamela lost her fiancé, Guy’s friend Michael Fenster. His stepdaughter Ismay Sealand, a 15-year-old who’d encouraged his sexual advances, sank into guilt. And heaven only knows the effect on Ismay’s younger sister Heather, who everyone assumed without asking had killed Guy. Now love has found both Ismay, attached to rising barrister Andrew Campbell-Sedge, and Heather, courted by hospice nurse Edmund Litton. The results of these amours are even more devastating than the original trauma. Ismay’s unwisely taped reminiscences of her stepfather’s death entangle the sisters with a crew ranging from a retired police inspector to an ingratiatingly murderous companion to the West End Werewolf. The look back at long-buried secrets recalls Rendell’s Barbara Vine novels (The Minotaur, 2006, etc.), but here the retrospect is balanced by a deliciously inexorable sense of forward momentum. With so many malign schemers on call and so many frail, foolish victims for them to prey on, the sense of impending calamity is palpable. The only question is how and whom it will strike.
Despite some unlikely coincidences and a rushed and muted ending, one of the most deeply pleasurable thrillers from the genre’s leading practitioner.