A mother living alone with her two young children in an old, large and rambling house awakens to the sound of footsteps slowly creaking up the stairs. An intruder has broken in. Somehow, she needs to get her children to safety. Somewhere they can hide and wait while he burgles their house, takes what he wants and leaves. But this is not a regular burglar. The mother will need to be very smart indeed if she’s to find the courage to outwit him and keep her children safe.
Life hasn’t been easy for the mother lately. She has tried to get on with her father-in-law but he is always criticising her and her children. She did her best to help him with the recent illness and of his wife, but matters came to a head when his wife died and now she has refused to see him. Her husband blames her, saying she must have done something to upset him and this soon became a constant bone of contention, upsetting their previous happy marriage.
The family’s house is isolated, surrounded by trees and a long way from the closest neighbours in a newly developed estate. The mother and her husband liked it for that very reason and have always felt safe here, but now he’s not at home. It’s winter and a blizzard is raging outside, so there is no way she can drag two tiny children in just their nightclothes into that. She needs to keep them quiet and hidden and try not to frighten them.
The writing in this masterful debut novel is excellent. Right from the start the tension builds up relentlessly and at times is almost unbearable. The reader may find they need to put the book down occasionally just to take a breath. There are periods of respite where the mother reflects back on her life and marriage, their time living in the house and the problems with her father-in-law.
The mother is under so much pressure at times that her metal state becomes fragile and she starts to question if she is imagining the intruder, or wonders if it’s all just some horrific nightmare and she’ll awaken soon back in her bed. Although none of the characters are named, they are well drawn, particularly the fragility but also strength of the mother and the hideous nature of the intruder. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, extremely creepy and very intense and the plotting perfectly timed to keep the reader glued to the pages, needing to know how it will all end. If you enjoy spine-tingling psychological thrillers, don’t miss this one.
With thanks to Penguin via Netgalley for a copy to read.
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