One sunny August afternoon, the residents of Cedar Close throw their annual summer barbecue. Children play in the cherry-tree lined street, tables are laden with food, and the wine is flowing. For Laurie Mills, it’s her first time meeting the neighbours. And it’s the first time she discovers her husband Robert is having an affair.Cedar Close has always been a nice place to live – a quiet suburban street where everyone looks out for one another and bad things don’t happen.Until late one evening, when Robert Mills is found dead in his bedroom.Downstairs, in their beautiful kitchen, his wife Laurie sits alone in the dark with her head in her hands. She can’t remember the last few hours, but she knows she didn’t kill Robert.The trouble is, no-one believes her…
A quiet close in suburbia… Until Laurie and Robert Mills move into no. 13 and our quiet little close becomes a little more animated. First, there’s the barbecue when Laurie completely loses her marbles in front of all of her neighbours. The resident gossip-mongers had a field day over that one, let me tell you! But however scandalous that event may have been perceived at the time, it’s nothing compared to the savage murder of the man of the house a few months later. And the lady of the house? Well, she is quite literally found with blood on her hands. Could that tiny, weak, aloof woman have killed her tall, broad-shouldered, charming, estranged husband, or is this case not as cut and dry as it seems?
I have to say I figured out the plot rather early on. I put two and two together and was proven right many chapters later. So for me this novel felt more character-driven than a manic search for the culprit because I was fairly certain I knew who it was. I’ve read books where I predicted the outcome early on and often that means I lose interest, but Anna-Lou Weatherley knew how to keep my attention: I had a theory on the who but I wanted to know the why too, and many of the events after the initial murder on Robert Mills could not be predicted. Speaking of Robert, I absolutely hated the man. I’m certain I’m supposed to, so no worries there, but god almighty what a manipulative, gaslighting, promiscuous, narcissistic, predatory, cheating, pathological liar and misogynistic abuser that man is!! (Sorry, had to get that off my chest!) Now, I’ve never been the victim of this kind of man, nor do I know anyone who has, but the way Robert’s depicted made me feel like I was there, like Laurie was a close friend of mine and I had to watch her suffer. So if abuse (solely of the psychological variety here) is a trigger for you, this book may not be for you.
Speaking of the psychological, this novel really puts the psychology in the psychological novel. Attention is given to the possible reasons for psychological abuse, such as the narcissistic personality disorder, and the character traits of people with this and similar conditions, and the nature-nurture debate is also considered. I find all that fascinating and a major plus for this kind of novel. More importantly, this background info is neatly incorporated in the story and it never comes across as didactic. Psychological abuse is described here as “death by a thousand cuts”, which I think is a very apt way of putting it and one I hadn’t considered before.
As much as I hated Robert Mills, that’s how much I loved Daniel Riley, the DI trying to solve this murder case. He’s the kindest man, still trying to recover from losing this partner and unborn child in a crash, willing to go above and beyond to solve his case and not falling for how cut and dry it seems. I had no idea this was the second novel in the Dan Riley series, I never had the feeling I was missing something, I only found out when I went on Goodreads. I immediately added the first book in the series, Dark Heart, to my wishlist, if that doesn’t tell you I enjoyed this book, I don’t know what will!
Recommended to lovers of psychological thrillers, especially if you’re drawn to the actual psychology behind heinous behaviour
Many thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel in exchange for an honest opinion.