Is Alice deranged or has her husband swapped her newborn child for another baby?
Every character in British novelist Hannah’s slightly unhinged psychodrama shows signs of mental disorder, from desperate Alice, convinced a different baby has been substituted for her two-week-old daughter Florence; to her menacing husband David; his bossy control freak of a mother Vivienne; the smitten but introvert cop Simon, who has been put on the case; and Simon’s female boss Charlie, who is not yet over Simon’s sexual rejection of her at a party a year earlier. There are echoes of Gaslight in David’s increasingly sadistic humiliations of fragile Alice, intensifying her sense of isolation and despair; and hints of Rebecca in the scenario of an alienated victim/wife trapped in a vast house—The Elms, Vivienne’s sizeable home, where they all live—and out of her depth. When Alice and the baby disappear, Charlie is forced to take Simon’s hunches more seriously and the murder of Laura Cryer, David’s first wife, is reopened. Slowly the plot winds to a conclusion in which two possibly mad, utterly driven women struggle for the upper hand.
Not quite Hitchcock, but a tautly claustrophobic spiral of a story delivered with self-belief.