The Manor House
December 17, 2023

Book Review

The Manor House

reviewed by Warner Holme

Gilly MacMillan’s The Manor House is a captivating thriller and mystery novel that delves into the theme of feeling trapped and the lengths one might go to in such a situation. The story unfolds around a married couple who, upon winning the lottery, construct a glass house incorporating an old barn.

The idyllic setting takes a dark turn when Nicole discovers her husband Tom lifeless in the pool. She seeks help from neighbors, and the police are swiftly involved. Signs of minor injuries in addition to drowning raise the specter of murder.

The narrative weaves through three primary storytelling threads. The first focuses on the aftermath of Tom’s body being found, forming the bulk of the novel. The perspective shifts rapidly among the widow, neighbors, and other key figures. Interspersed with these narratives are entries from Anna’s journal, which reveal significant backstories and hidden secrets of the neighbors, gradually intertwining with the present events. Additionally, flashbacks to Tom’s final moments offer insights into his character, weaving in false leads and key revelations to heighten suspense.

A lingering question in the novel is the couple’s financial situation. They win ten million pounds, a substantial sum, yet it seems insufficient for their lavish lifestyle and the maintenance of a mansion. This point, however, is not extensively explored in the book.

Nicole is portrayed as a complex lead, grappling with the loss of her possibly too-perfect husband, Tom. Neighbors Ollie and Sasha, as well as other closely connected characters like Kitty and Anna, are intricately developed. Detectives Hal and Jen, though somewhat idealized, are depicted as humane and realistic. The narrative avoids caricature even in its portrayal of secondary characters such as old friends, relatives, drifters, and witnesses.

The plot is laden with twists, casting a shadow of moral ambiguity over the characters, keeping the reader engaged and guessing. The police officers investigating the case, portrayed with a strong sense of camaraderie and concern for each other, stand out as the least morally grey characters.

The Manor House is not designed as a series. While the detectives play a significant role, the story does not revolve around them. The various plotlines reach a satisfying conclusion.

This standalone mystery thriller is engrossing, with its array of believable characters and a well-crafted setup. It is a compelling read that maintains its grip on the reader right up to the final page, making it a recommended pick for fans of the genre.

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