Snakes as temptation, snakes as untrustworthy people, snakes as dangerous reptiles—all present and accounted for in this suspenseful drama of an ultrarich, dysfunctional British family.
After growing up among private jets and criminally narcissistic parents, Bea Adamson has cut herself off from her family and their money and has never been open with her biracial husband, Dan, who has only been introduced once, about the extent of their wealth. The couple lives close to the bone in London off their earnings as a psychotherapist and real estate agent. When they decide to take a break and drive an old Peugeot around the continent, their first stop is to see Bea's ne'er-do-well brother, Alex, who has been set up by their father with a hotel outside Beaune, a town not far from the Swiss border. When they arrive at the Hotel Paligny, they are surprised to find a defunct operation which hasn't seen guests in quite some time. "There are loads of snakes," Alex warns when taking them up to the attic. "Mostly they're just grass snakes. They're sort of company....It's the vipers I don't like." Soon after, the hotel gates swing open and more snakes arrive—Adamson père et mère. As horrified as she is by the appearance of Griff and Liv, Bea has no idea how bad things can get. The most impressive accomplishment of Jones' (Fallout, 2014, etc.) fifth novel—her first with a contemporary setting—is the seemingly straightforward, actually rather complicated nature of the relationship between Bea and Dan. The depiction of the frustrations of dealing with the French bureaucracy is also on the money. However, the rich parents are two-dimensional in their utter repulsiveness, and the violent closing section of the book does not quite fulfill the potential of what precedes it.
A well-executed, character-driven cross between domestic drama and crime thriller.