Two families trade homes for the vacation of a lifetime, but there's grim baggage to unpack in this tricky debut thriller.
Kate and Mannix O'Brien jump at the chance to visit New York. Money woes have worn them thin, and their bullied autistic son is obsessed with King Kong, so the Empire State offers the antidote to daily life in Limerick. Even daughter Izzy should enjoy a bit of freedom from babysitting and being her brother's chief defender. Hazel, Oscar, and their kids swap their New York apartment for the fog and peat of Hazel's birthplace, but something's off between the couple; his temper is fearsome, and makeup isn't hiding her bruises. MacDonald toys with the reader, leading right then feinting left with plot twists that genuinely surprise. Infidelity, deception, revenge, and murder all come into play, but the big thrill here is the constant undermining of assumptions. Irish and American economic woes are the silent characters adding stress to already tense lives. Mannix's constant texting on the trip and Oscar's flaring anger only hint at the explosive turn things ultimately take. If the story is less character study and more driven by sleight of hand, it still packs quite a wallop.
A vacation studded with dark revelations that readers will relish.