The premise for this plot is similar to that of Agatha Christie's Ordeal By Innocence. Some years after an innocent person has been convicted of a murder the claimed alibi turns out to have been true (the alibi giver having left the country on the same day). But the innocent person has now died in prison.
And then someone else dies.
The first third of this book follows some of the participants: Emma, who found the body all those years ago; her husband James, who has a guilty secret; and father of the innocent scapegoat, Michael. Part two is from the point of view of detective Vera. In part three we move through multiple viewpoints again.
There was a lot of good psychology in this story although I was not convinced of the psychological likelihood of the eventual solution (probably because I didn't get the last twist). But what made this book special was the wonderful descriptions of a bleak and very flat landscape as winter begins to bite. Moments such as:
- "The wind rattled a roof tile and hisses out from the churchyard, spitting a Coke can onto the street." (p 3)
- "She looked around her and saw a piece of black polythene, tossed by the wind so that it looked like an enormous crow, flapping over the bean field."(p 14)
There are other beautiful pieces of writing:
- "Emma was reminded of train journeys, strangers cramped around a table, trying to make sure their knees and feet didn't touch." (p 99)
- The memory "came back in jagged flashes, like the sunlight on the pavements." (p 110)
- A parent's relationship with a stroppy teenager: "fights, sulky silences, shut doors with music like sobbing seeping out from under them" (p 140)
- "What was he regretting? Sex or age. It had to be one or the other." (p 152)
- "There were more gaps in the Mantel file than a trawl net drying at North Shields Fish Quay. And the smell was much the same too." (p 178)
A very atmospheric murder mystery. April 2018; 410 pages