This book was another new author for me and I read it almost in one sitting (I only stopped when I got to Glasgow and I had to get off) The cover of the book states: ‘He chose to come to the river house, She chose to keep him there forever’ and the story pretty much does what it says on the ‘tin’.
Sonia lives in the River House, which is where she grew up. Jez, the young nephew of her alcoholic best friend, turns up one night to borrow some music, they end up getting drunk and he stays the night. Sonia then gradually starts to breakdown and her obsessive behaviour starts.
Penny Hancock is talking at Harrogate within the session called ‘Drawing the line’. Its described as being where authors describe their ‘struggles with morality’ and this would seem quite fitting for this book. Sonia commits crimes, but you get the sense that circumstances overtake her and things take on a life of their own. She is a housewife with a perfect house, a daughter at University, a husband with a great job. However she also has a secret that is gradually revealed as her breakdown becomes more frantic.
The story is told from both Sonia’s first person narrative and her friend Helen’s third person point of view, which was an interesting style. It meant that it was easy to keep track of who you were reading about. It also meant of course that we were able to be told information that would not have been knowledge to Sonia regarding the search for Jez.
There is a real feeling of claustrophobia throughout this book and this is emphasised by the first person narrative of Sonia’s story. Her life is unravelling, her husband wants to sell the only home she’s ever really known, her daughter has left and met a man, her best friend is drinking too much, and Sonia is trying to cling onto the life she once had. She doesn’t set out to commit a crime, and is a ‘normal’ housewife to those on the outside looking in.
This was an incredibly atmospheric book, the descriptive writing based around the Thames, and the River House help build the sense of impending doom. I felt that you had very little idea of how the story was going to turn out, and indeed the final ‘reveal’ was a shock although the clues when you look back were all there.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and whilst looking back the story was ‘gentler’ than a lot of the crime fiction I read, it was one of the stories that left you thinking about it for a long time afterwards. I am looking forward to seeing Penny at the Festival.