We meet Hannah Riley and her husband Will as they drive to a remote spot in Suffolk to their new house. Hannah is placating Will who is lost in the countryside that formed the happier moments of his childhood. The new house has to be perfect for Barbara in a mere 10 days. Hannah longs for a child of her own and she believes the house is the key to finally achieving this.
Having moved in winter no sooner has Will returned to London where he works as a music producer than the snow falls cutting off the majestic sounding Tornley Hall from the surrounding towns and villages and Hannah is left alone in the house.
Hannah sees figures, has to contend with half the house being inexplicably locked and with a strange lingering smell. With poor mobile reception and Will appearing to have less invested in the move she is clearly in for a rough time until the snow clears. There is plenty of unwelcome surprises for Hannah but I felt frustrated with her. No one in their right mind would be planning on bringing up a child in a remote spot with no transport, surely? The desperation to fix the house up for the mysterious Barbara and the belief that any normal reaction to a suspected crime would jeopardise the visit made no sense even with the protracted build up and ongoing hints of the mysterious events eight months previously didn’t convince this reader.
The mystery continues when the villagers appear to contradict everything that Hannah has said causing further conflict between herself and her husband which isn’t resolved as he runs into the distance and back to London leaving Hannah to deal with the now wary inhabitants of Tornley.
I found this a somewhat tortured tale which stretched the bounds of credulity to the max, I know it’s fiction but in these types of thrillers I have to believe that this could really happen and this time I didn’t. The pace of the book is good, there are plenty of twists along the way and with a nod to recent press stories along similar lines but I wasn’t invested enough in any of the characters, the villagers in particular seemed to be the stereotypical country bumpkins of fifty years ago without distinct personalities to differentiate them from each other. I think part of the problem is we have two strong story-lines; that of Hannah’s longing for a child as well as a potential crime and whilst one is used to illustrate the lack of action on Hannah’s part these are two heavy subjects for one book especially when combined with the disabled neighbour, Will’s past issues as well as a strange relationship with his cousin it all became a little bit ‘issue-heavy’.
I have read Louise Millar’s previous books The Playdate and Accidents Happen which I found much more thrilling, so I’m sure if I hadn’t been a disbeliever The Hidden Girl may have been a better read for me.
I’d like to thank the publishers Macmillan for allowing me to read a copy of this book prior to publication on 22 May 2014.