A long-lost friend is a stranger you think you know
Eden was its name. "An alternative school for happy children," said the brochure. "A load of hippies running wild in the woods," said the locals. After a suicide it closed its doors and the children scattered.
Thirty years later, it's a care home; its grounds neglected and overgrown, its only neighbour Gloria Harkness, who acts as tenant-caretaker in a rundown farmhouse to be close to her son. Nicky lives in the home, lighting up Gloria's life and breaking her heart every day.
Nicky and a ragbag of animals aren't enough to keep loneliness at bay, and when Gloria's childhood friend and secret sweetheart, Stephen "Stig" Tarrant, turns up at her door one night, all she can see is the boy she knew. She lets him in.
Stig's being stalked by an Eden girl, he says. She has goaded him into meeting her at the site of the suicide. Except that suddenly, after all these years, the dead are beginning to speak and suicide is not what they say.
When the children of Eden were sent out into the world they took a secret with them. And someone is making sure they take it to the grave.
Civil servant Gloria Harkness, the narrator of this disturbing standalone from Edgar-finalist McPherson (Come to Harm), receives an unexpected visitor one rainy night at her secluded Scottish country house: an old primary schoolmate of hers, Stephen "Stig" Tarrant, who's still haunted by the drowning of a boy at Eden, the boarding school the then-11-year-old Stig attended. The drowning occurred while Stig, the dead boy, and several other classmates were out camping together. Eden, forced to close down by the scandal, was turned into the same institution where Gloria's 15-year-old son, who suffers from a neurodegenerative disease, lies in a vegetative state. After Gloria and Stig happen to uncover the corpse of a classmate of Stig's, Stig becomes the police's prime suspect. Gloria decides to undertake her own investigation and discovers that a number of the students present on the night of the drowning have either killed themselves or suffered hardships. One surprising plot twist after another leads to a shocking ending.