Written by Denise Mina

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes.

Harvill Secker
RRP: £14.99
Released: May 16, 2019

Anna McLean, comfortably married to a wealthy lawyer, with two cherished daughters and a state-of-the-art home, is about to start the school run when she opens her front door to Estelle, her best friend, packed and about to leave for Portugal with Anna’s husband and the girls. This is ultimate eviction - and without warning.

Bereft, traumatized, suicidal, Anna seeks solace in a familiar passion: podcasts featuring true crime, the current case being the sinking of a yacht and the deaths of the master and his two teenage children, all drowned in a sealed cabin. Foul play is obvious and Amila, the chef, is charged with murder although when the boat exploded she was on a plane bound for Lyon. In fact, no one else was aboard other than the ghost of a young boy.

Slumped in her own hall, contemplating suicide, surrounded by the debris of her attack on her husband’s  mistress, Anna is faintly distracted by the awareness that the drowned man was an old friend. As she grieves for this new loss and his beautiful children (pictures on her phone), Estelle’s husband comes to the door. Fin is another lost and bewildered soul: a celebrated musician - heroin junkie, anorexic and Vegan.

Fin fastens on Anna and clings like a limpet to a rock despite her furious foul-mouthed abuse. For Anna has found her mission and her motivation is convoluted, as is the plot of this sophisticated novel. Three threads are to fuse: a marriage breaks up and custody of the children is at stake; another family is murdered at sea; and the clincher: Anna has been leading a spurious life under an assumed name for years, on the run from killers after some catastrophic episode in her past.

The sinking of the yacht is the catalyst. With Amila, the alleged perpetrator, convicted and imprisoned, media attention shifts to Leon, the dead father: a louche charismatic East End boy, an entrepreneur fallen on good times in marrying Gretchen, a rich and powerful  German with global interests – the same woman  behind the mysterious threats to Anna.

It was when she was in flight from her pursuers a decade ago that Anna met Leon. Investigating his past  leads the press to this old connection and she goes on the run again but this time with Fin, and with the determination to clear Leon’s name as rumours proliferate that, bankrupt,  he killed his children and committed suicide. But Anna  is convinced that it was his wife, the unspeakable Gretchen, who sent her PA, an even more formidable Rottweiler, to blow up the yacht. (But how did she get on and off the boat – and what part did the ghost play?)

Questions outnumber suppositions. It’s all there, in detail, as is the life history of the principle characters, the ambience and the colour (carefully observed) of the locations on Anna and Fin’s flight, not always one step ahead of their pursuers, from the Highlands to France to Venice and back again. They bicker continuously, drink copiously, the while they beaver away on the internet:  searching for proof of Gretchen’s involvement in the murders, stalked by her heavies. These last are members  of not one but two Balkan and Russian Mafia,  murderously and mutually opposed. Fin and Anna are both targets and victims caught in the crossfire.

On the surface a fiendishly intricate plot but basically a progress from the depths of despair through terror and hatred to conviction and some kind of redemption. It makes an interesting journey and an absorbing and exciting read.

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