Linda Hammett lives an unassuming life with her husband Terry. They live on a middle-class estate, where they’ve been for quite a few years now, only they’ve recently moved into a different house on the estate. It’s similar to their old house in many ways; maybe a tad larger, with one or two tweaks, but it caught Linda’s eye and she had managed to convince Terry that it was time for a change, and here they are. The estate itself is pretty typical of these types of places, with a variety of personalities, including the local gossip and those who you go out of your way to avoid. But there’s generally good camaraderie to be found at the local pub which Linda and Terry regularly frequent (Terry, possibly a bit more often than Linda). Terry works at the tyre factory and Linda has a part-time job in a charity shop, when she’s not fastidiously (read: obsessively) cleaning the house, cooking egg and chips or fish-sticks for Terry’s tea, or paging through the glossy catalogues that still arrive in the mail for previous tenant, Rebecca. It seems to be a rather small, mundane life, but Linda is quite sure that there is much more waiting for her ‘out there’.
Regular daily life on the estate is interrupted, however, when the body of a young woman is found nearby and it’s revealed that she’s been murdered! Shortly after that another body is found and the estate is abuzz with fear and gossip. Could there be a serial killer in their midst? Linda is fully alert to all that’s going on around her because she’s been through similar unease before. She and her mother, the hyper-critical Eunice, fled Wales years previously after alleged accusations against Linda’s father that escalated to impossible proportions. The author cleverly weaves this back-story into the plot, using hints and allusions throughout.
As the atmosphere on the estate becomes more fraught and Eunice (who doesn’t even live on the estate, but in a nearby neighbourhood) takes to keeping a notebook with her wherever she goes, writing down anything and everything she deems important (hmmm … I wonder where Linda’s OCD tendencies come from), Linda is busy with her own pursuits. She appreciates the fact that she’s the type of person that people don’t take very seriously (top of the list being her own mother and husband), and knows how to use it to her advantage. Because truthfully, Linda could probably be described as “somewhere on the spectrum”, or by some who are less kind “a bit simple”. She’s not a people’s person, doesn’t make friends easily (doesn’t actually have friends to speak of, although she’d tell you differently), and has difficulty interpreting social cues, and “reading the room”. Her own analysis of her interactions with the people she meets (which she shares quite freely and openly, lest we see them from the other person’s perspective and misunderstand what’s really going on) are a cross between absolutely, laugh-out-loud, cringeworthy and a feeling of wanting to gently put your arms around her as you lead her away, saying “there, there”! It’s in these moments that Joanna Cannon’s intricately fine understanding of mental health issues truly shines, and the further you read, the more you come to realise this.
This is a slow burning thriller/mystery, where the sinister sense of unease builds, page by page until you’re reading with breathless anticipation, in anxious desperation to know what’s actually going on! It’s also a reminder that although some things might be glaringly obvious, we don’t necessarily see them if we don’t expect them and aren’t looking for them, and the best place to hide is often in plain sight.
This is an exceptionally clever 5-star read! I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Thank you so much to Random Things Tours for inviting me along!