First things first, I need to thank Sphere for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
*This review will contain spoilers!*
"It was just the right place for Nathan. Like this place, maybe. A place where Nathan could feel at home, king of the castle, and the rest of us don't even want to cross the threshold."
'He was in the room. She didn't know how long she'd been asleep, but she'd been dreaming.'Wow. I am gripped.
(Can you sense the sarcasm?)
Fran Hall moves to the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere with her husband Nathan and their two children, Emme and Ben. Nathan gets murdered. The police think Fran did it. Fran knows she didn't do it, but has no idea who actually could have done it.
I requested this book because I'd heard good things about Christobel Kent's debut novel, 'The Crooked House', and the cover was really nice. Turns out the cover is the only interesting thing in the entire book.
Fran Hall is bland. Her husband is dead, so I could have accepted hysterical mourning or a thirst for the truth, but Fran just gets on with things. Towards the end of the book she wants to find the killer, but I wonder how much of that is just to make the police stop suspecting her.
Nothing happens, and then everything happens. There are no clues about who could have murdered Nathan, but about fifteen different possibilities are set up throughout the first three quarters of the novel, just for all of the other lines of inquiry to be systematically shut down in rapid fire succession leaving us with the predictable conclusion that Nathan's best friend Rob is the culprit. Turns out boring Fran was quite appealing to Rob, and he was a little bit ticked off when Nathan married her as a front for his life as an undercover cop. Yeah... I thought so too.
It all comes out of nowhere. There are so many theories being thrown up in the air that when they start being dismissed it's hard to keep track: wait, you're telling me Nathan was molested by his business partner - no, by a police officer - no, Nathan wasn't molested, but he encouraged Rob to have sex with random men - but Nathan was gay - but he had children with Fran anyway - but the children were an accident - no, he planned them as part of his cover story - no, he was asexual - no, he was a psychopath who used sex to manipulate people... All within the space of about a hundred pages, after hundreds of pages of blah blah nothingness to begin the tale. It was a real mindfuck.
I wondered if I didn't gel with this because I haven't been reading a lot of thrillers this year, and sometimes it takes me a while to get back into the pacing of the stories, but that's not the reason. The reason is that this book isn't thrilling. Not at all. When it gets to the stage that I'm reading two or three pages of a book at a time and I'm already finding my mind wandering and boredom filling me... That's just not a good book.
I haven't read Christobel Kent's first novel, and I'm now thinking I'm going to struggle to do that. This was just so bad.
The only reason I've awarded it two stars instead of the more deserved one is because there are some beautiful descriptions of the haunting cold in the farmhouse and the winter sun on the horizon at the distant edge of the field: the imagery is stunning and can be easily pictured. It's just a shame that the story didn't hold my attention as much as those fleeting snapshots of the scene.