“Bloody brilliant.”—Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train
Internationally bestselling author Julie Myerson’s beautifully written, yet deeply chilling, novel of psychological suspense explores the tragedies—past and present—haunting a picturesque country cottage.
Mary Coles and her husband, Graham, have just moved to a cottage on the edge of a small village. The house hasn’t been lived in for years, but they are drawn to its original features and surprisingly large garden, which stretches down into a beautiful apple orchard. It’s idyllic, remote, picturesque: exactly what they need to put the horror of the past behind them.
One hundred and fifty years earlier, a huge oak tree was felled in front of the cottage during a raging storm. Beneath it lies a young man with a shock of red hair, presumed dead—surely no one could survive such an accident. But the red-haired man is alive, and after a brief convalescence is taken in by the family living in the cottage and put to work in the fields. The children all love him, but the eldest daughter, Eliza, has her reservations. There’s something about the red-haired man that sits ill with her. A presence. An evil.
Back in the present, weeks after moving to the cottage and still drowning beneath the weight of insurmountable grief, Mary Coles starts to sense there’s something in the house. Children’s whispers, footsteps from above, half-caught glimpses of figures in the garden. A young man with a shock of red hair wandering through the orchard.
Has Mary’s grief turned to madness? Or have the events that took place so long ago finally come back to haunt her…?
This overlong novel from British author Myerson (The Quickening) focuses on two families living in the same village near Ipswich in Essex, separated by 150 years. In the present, grief-stricken Mary Coles and her husband move to a run-down cottage with a large back garden, once a farmyard, to seek a new start after a tragedy that's only gradually revealed. Meanwhile, in the past, 13-year-old Eliza narrates the story of a red-haired stranger, James Dix, whose sudden arrival at her family's farm leads inexorably to trouble. Dix is a seducer whose tendency to violence gradually becomes clear, and wary Eliza is only one of his targets. Back in the present, Mary's married neighbor, Eddie, begins paying inappropriate attention to her. The forward-looking visions of Eliza's four-year-old sister, Lottie, and Mary's visions of the past connect the experiences of the two families, but this contrivance fails to unite the two stories into a suspenseful whole.