Author – Julia Crouch
Published – 29 March 2012
Genre – Psychological thriller
I have to confess that I wasn’t a big of Julia Crouch’s first novel Cuckoo, but I have been looking forward the publication of her second psychological thriller.
Marcus Wayland is a fairly unsuccessful actor in England, but a contact on Trout Island, in New York state, has offered him the lead role in “the Scottish play”. So Marcus and his family (wife Lara, teenage twins Olly and Bella and little Jack) arrive in Trout Island for a six-week stay so that he can make the most of this opportunity.
Trout Island turns out to be something of a sleepy backwater. The house the theatre company are putting them up in is smelly and dusty, there are few people to be seen in the neighbourhood and the theatre isn’t too well-known. Perhaps not quite what they were expecting.
Lara seems to be another put upon housewife. She has supported Marcus when he hasn’t be able to find enough work, he has recently persuaded her to have an abortion against her wishes and the family seem happy to leave her to the drudgery of running the home. However, a chance meeting at a party thrown for the theatre company reminds her of all that she has been missing.
While Lara wrestles with her feelings and Marcus becomes involved in rehearsals with the theatre company, the family are subject to some odd and slightly sinister incidents.
There is a sub-plot to the main story, involving the twins and a burgeoning relationship between Bella and a handsome local boy. This provides some extra tension in the story as well as a few moments of serious wincing! This is driven by friction between the twins which has its roots in a dark and unpleasant secret.
The early part of the book has a slow pace, one that perhaps reflects the sultry weather and lethargy of the Wayland family. But the slow pace doesn’t help to build the tension, rather it dissipates it. The sense of place is excellent – you could believe that Crouch is just as familiar with the wilds of New York state as she is with Brighton.
The book reaches a climax with a change of pace and an increase in the tension, but I have to confess that certain aspects of the ending didn’t really come as a surprise.
I’m sure that there will be many fans who will enjoy this just as much as they did Cuckoo, but for me it doesn’t provide the nail-biting tension that makes a really great psychological thriller.
Thanks to Headline for the review copy. You can see an alternative review at The Bibliomouse.
Score – 3/5