If there’s one thing that Susie Lynes does really well, it’s domestic noir, and with her latest offering, The Housewarming, she just proves that she’s getting better and better at it!
The morning that Ava Atkins straps two-year-old Abi into her stroller, parking her at the bottom of the stairs before running upstairs to gather up some laundry, starts as mundanely as any other. As Ava hurriedly goes about her business, she listens out to hear if Abi is starting to fuss, and not hearing anything, decides to take a quick loo break (which mom doesn’t understand the utter relief of an undisturbed wee when there’s a busy toddler in the house?), during which she may have snuck a quick look at Facebook on her phone because … well, who doesn’t? She then dashes downstairs and to her horror, discovers that the stroller is empty! Abi is nowhere to be seen and worst of all: the front door is open!
How is this even possible? She couldn’t have been upstairs for more than 5 or 10 minutes (maybe 15 at the most), and anyway, Abi doesn’t even know how to unstrap herself from her stroller, does she? And Ava is absolutely sure she’d locked the front door as she always does, or actually … had she done it before rushing upstairs for that laundry? She remembers being a bit distracted, so did she lock the door before heading up those stairs? Or did her husband Matt lock it? Wasn’t he supposed to do that? These are the the thoughts that repeatedly haunt Ava throughout that day as the search for little Abi begins. They’re to become like a mantra to her, drumming through her head throughout the 12 months that follow, because Abi has disappeared into thin air!
A year later, wealthy neighbours The Lovegoods, invite everyone in the street to their housewarming party. Their lengthy renovation is finally finished and they want to welcome everyone to their brand spanking new, sparkly home, now that it’s finally complete (and because they’re a bit showy offy)! Ava is adamant that she isn’t going to the party. Firstly because she still cannot bring herself to be anywhere close to anything considered celebratory, and secondly because she doesn’t want to be with all the people who live in such close proximity to her and who have been witness to her tragedy and continued misery.
Matt however, is convinced that getting out to a gathering with people who know and understand her will be a ‘soft landing’ as a first social outing, and talks her into going. He tells her that they won’t have to stay long. And so … off they go. And of course, it’s at this party where Ava overhears a throwaway remark that brinks the entire previous 12 months into sharp focus and she realises that the people closest to her are the exact ones she should be with if she wants to find out what happened to Abi.
Oh my word! I couldn’t put this down. It’s gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and altogether quite devastating. How well do people really know the people who live around them? Do people look further than the facades that people display to discover what’s behind them, and why they feel they need to disguise who they are? This is a well constructed commentary on community and the shelters that groups create for themselves. We hope that we are settled in safe havens and that we have created comfort zones for ourselves and our families but what happens when those foundations we hope we’ve established are shaken?
This is a 5 star read that I highly recommend. It’s a slow burner that I wouldn’t describe as a thriller as such, but probably more in the suspense category. Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to blog along with them. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Housewarming …
Former BBC Producer, S.E. Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of ‘intelligent and haunting’, ‘beautifully written’ psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT, THE PROPOSAL, THE WOMEN, THE LIES WE HIDE, CAN YOU SEE HER? and her latest novel, THE HOUSEWARMING, available for order NOW.
After completing her MA, Lynes taught creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College for over ten years. She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing.
She has also published three children’s books in Italy: IL LEOPARDO LAMPO, LA COCCODRILLA INGAMBA, and the bilingual LA SCIMMIA SPIRITOSA/THE FUNNY MONKEY, all available at Amazon.it
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