An old house with secrets and a need to atone at the heart of Penny Hancock’s new novel. When Ellie is driving along a dark country lane to spend the weekend with friends at the house left to her by her Aunt May she thinks she may have hit something or somebody in the road and so when she realises that a man was seriously injured in a hit and run accident she doesn’t know what to do, eventually she decides to visit the man in hospital. Patrick is lying in hospital, suffering from amnesia and believes Ellie is his girlfriend. Ellie is worried about the consequences of telling the police what really happened on the dark road instead deciding that helping him get better is a good way of making up for the accident, plays along with him, which predictably becomes harder to sustain as their relationship develops.
Regular readers of my reviews will be aware that I have a problem connecting with a book if I don’t believe the scenario set and I’m afraid this book falls into that category. I personally don’t know anyone, let alone someone who at the start of the novel has a good circle of friends and is well-educated, would think that falling into the role of Patrick’s girlfriend was a feasible option. The other problem I have with this book is the labouring of certain points; Ellie is obsessive so while the author reminds us that she is touching certain objects three times numerous times, she also points out that Ellie started doing this to keep people safe (including naming the people she was protecting) until I was almost shouting at the book, ‘yes I get it, Ellie is obsessive, she counts to keep people safe, the names of the people she is protecting are X, Y and Z, and this must be because of some trauma that I have yet to discover.’I just prefer a little more subtlety in the writing as for me part of the pleasure of reading is to join the dots myself.
The second half of the book picked up and was a much more interesting read as the action smoothed over some of the plot holes and Ellie discovers exactly why Aunt May left her the house and begins to realise that Patrick is also hiding some secrets and maybe isn’t the man she thought he was.
Unfortunately my lack of belief in the main thread of the story meant that I didn’t connect with Ellie and had little sympathy for any of the characters, except perhaps the dead Aunt May. However for the many readers who will be able to accept that this is fiction, once you accept the premise apart from a few minor procedural points the plot is reasonably solid and once the setting of the scene has taken place the a pace is brisk and will keep most readers turning the pages to find out what happens next.
I’d like to thank the publishers Simon & Schuster UK for allowing me to read a copy of this book which is due to be published on 11 September 2014 in return for this honest review.