The Hidden Girl - Louise Millar
From the publishers blurb ...
Hannah Riley and her musician husband, Will, hope that a move to the Suffolk countryside will promise a fresh start. Hannah, a human rights worker, is desperate for a child and she hopes that this new life will realise her dream. Yet when the snow comes, Will is working in London and Hannah is cut off in their remote village.
Life in Tornley turns out to be far from idyllic, who are the threatening figures who lurk near their property at night? And why is her neighbour so keen to see them leave? Plus Will's behaviour is severely testing the bonds of trust. Hannah has spent her professional life doing the right thing for other people.
But as she starts to unbury a terrible crime, she realises she can no longer do that without putting everything she's ever wanted at risk. But if she does nothing, the next victim could be her...
Louise Millar - author of the brilliant The Playdate is back on top form after her second book didn't quite live up to my expectations, a stunning debut is often hard to follow. Well, its third time lucky with this unusual twisty, psychological, mystery thriller set between bustling London and the quiet rural backwaters of Suffolk. I received my copy from Netgalley so I could review it in advance.
Hannah and Will are a young married couple whose happiness depends on them overcoming past problems and Hannah is convinced their only route to this state is to complete their family with a child for which adoption is the only route left open to the former aid worker and her music producer husband.
The start of the book sees them moving to an old house in the countryside, mistakenly believing that quiet rural life in a rambling old Country Pile will be beneficial to their application to adopt.
For a chapter or two this seems like pretty standard fare, young couple buy spooky old house and things begin to go bump in the night .... But it's no ghost which haunts Tornley Hall. The descriptions are great, I felt as if I was there with her working to a tight deadline to get the house ready for a very important visitor and I shared her anguish when things started to go wrong.
As Will commutes back to London Hannah is left in the isolated spot to mull over their decision and as snow begins to fall, the house proves to be in much worse repair than anticipated and the locals prove unfriendly and some downright sinister she struggled to cope with her usual efficiency and calm. As secrets are uncovered and cracks begin to appear not just in her new home, but in her marriage Hannah battles to hang on to her sanity.
At first you are led to think there's not really that much going on in the story, it seems almost gentle but don't be lulled into relaxing, the tension is gradually cranked up until you realise that what seemed like minor annoyances are in fact something much more sinister, and as the alarm bells begin to sound, like Hannah you've got far too involved in what's going on in Tornley to back away, deep in the countryside no-one can hear you scream.
This is a sinister and creepy psychological tour de force with so many little twists it really keeps you turning the pages until late in the night and makes you want to check the doors are firmly locked before you do lay your head down to sleep - don't you just love a book which does that?
When the mystery is finally revealed in a crescendo of brutal intensity it really wasn't what I was expecting and made me peer back at some of the things which had happened and see them in a different light. The loose ends are neatly tied up in a satisfactory climactic ending.
Louise has returned to revealing the hidden nastiness which lies beneath seemingly ordinary domestic life and shows that you never really know which of your neighbours you can trust. If you liked the Playdate you'll enjoy this.