Dorothy Koomson is one of those authors that I began reading before I crime fiction became my favourite genre and her early books were marketed as the very fashionable (at the time) chick-lit, although they all had important and more serious issues at their centre. The last few of this authors books have developed into somewhat darker novels and this one follows that theme.
Saffron was widowed in the most awful circumstances eighteen months before the book starts, her husband Joel was murdered and left to die by the side of the road. Saffron’s daughter Phoebe is now 14 and within pages we realise that she knows more about her father’s murder than she let onto the police, but what the secret is soon overtaken by the present when Saffron is called into the school to be told by the headmaster that Phoebe has another secret and one that needs immediate attention. With her younger son Zane and a demanding job the grieving Saffron has more than enough on her plate, but this is a study in keeping going one step at a time through whatever life throws at you.
This book is crammed full of issues which in the hands of a less accomplished author could have produced something of a mismatch of a book and far less breath-taking mainly because all of her characters are beautifully drawn displaying evidence of the author’s training in psychology. The result is real people with good and bad points far away from stereotypes as is possible, the sort of people you meet daily. The contrast between good intentions and bad decisions are illustrated many times through this delightful array of personalities, none more so than the brilliant Aunt Betty who becomes part of the household.
With the characters forming the backbone of this novel along with their issues the author also has managed to pace the book by switching times as far back to the beginning of Saffron and Joel’s relationship. Although the time periods jump about building a picture of their life this is far from confusing with the chapters clearly marking the time before or after the day of Joel’s death. Meanwhile in the present day the tension builds at a steady pace as poor Saffron has more sinister things to deal with and the battle is on to keep her family safe. Added to this there is some fledgling romance to bring a tear to the eye as Saffron comes to terms with the fact that her husband has truly gone.
The title of the book refers to the cookbook that Joel was compiling before his death and we are treated to a few of these recipes and those his wife is experimenting with in an aim to finish it in his memory giving the book a truly original feel.
There is lots to love in this book and the only slight criticism I have hinges on the original secret kept by Phoebe and unfortunately the one on which the whole book hinges, just really didn’t feel of sufficient magnitude not to come clean but the rest of the book is so wonderfully executed that I simply had to overcome my reservations and join Saffron through some dark days and nights.
I’d recommend this author to anyone who loves character driven and although this book doesn’t lend itself well to the searing dry humour of some of her previous books it is still makes an appearance from time to time…
“She isn’t used to apologising, it must taste very strange and unpleasant in her mouth, something I’m sure she won’t want to sample again for a long time.”
I’m now hoping that as it has taken me the best part of a year to get around to reading this one that a new book will be in the offing from this author soon.
Dorothy Koomson’s previous books:
The Cupid Effect
The Chocolate Run
My Best Friend’s Girl
Marshmallow’s for Breakfast
The Ice Cream Girls
The Woman He Loved Before
The Rose Petal Beach