Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

review by Maryom

Thirteen years ago Esme was the only member of her family to emerge unscathed after a night of horrific violence in which her mother, brother, and twin sisters were killed before her father presumably turned his gun on himself. Now, calling herself Alison, she's created a new anonymous life in London and thought the past was well behind her - until her boyfriend asks her to join him at a wedding in the very village the tragedy occurred. Alison's hopes of slipping in and out of the place unnoticed soon fade - even if they don't say anything, the locals have recognised her - and, despite her initial terror at returning, she finds herself drawn to the lonely crooked house where she once lived - compelled to confront the past she's tried so hard to suppress. As her memories flood back, she soon starts to question the 'official' version of what happened on that horrific night...but if her father wasn't responsible for the shootings, who was?
The Crooked House is a novel with a great sense of place and stalking evil. Saltleigh is a remote community situated between estuary and marshes; one that no one visits accidentally, that takes generations to belong in, one that closes ranks against outsiders and refuses to reveal its secrets. Alison's childhood home was isolated even further - a lonely dilapidated house surrounded by windswept marshes, reached by it's own access track. Coming back after so many years, it feels to Alison like a place where evil taints the air and that her personal tragedy was just one of a long list; a toddler killed in a house fire, a child dying of cancer, a hit and run teenage death.
After the initial shock opening, the story starts a little slowly, building Alison's current situation in London, her relationships with work colleagues and  much older boyfriend. When the setting moves to Saltleigh, the pace and menace pick up, and Alison's carefully constructed peace of mind rapidly unravels.

It's a page-turning tale of buried secrets that had me guessing to the end - I was just left wondering about the motivation of some of the characters, and at how lazy the original police investigation had been.

Maryom's Review - 4 stars
Publisher - Sphere 
Genre - adult psychological thriller

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