The Crooked House by Christobel Kent
Published by Sphere
8th January 2015
One fateful night. One unthinkable family tragedy. One survivor.
This is Alison's story.
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She's a nobody; she has no-one and that's how she wants it.
But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else's - or so she thought.
Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she's to have any chance of happiness, she has to return to her old life and confront the darkness that worked its way inside her family and has pursued her ever since.
As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?
This book starts with a fantastic opening. Esme Grace, upstairs in her bedroom, while the rest of her family are downstairs, hears a series of loud bangs. When she finally ventures downstairs all she sees are dead bodies, her entire family have been murdered in one single incident. Esme leaves her life, and moves south with her aunt, becoming Alison in the process.
Now in a relationship with Paul, she gets the opportunity to return to Saltleigh in order to attend a wedding in her home town. As Paul doesn't know about her past, she can't think of a good enough reason not to go with him. Surely, by now, almost 15 years later, no one will recognise her, and her new identity will remain as such? Of course it doesn't, else what would be the point of the book? Alison returns but it isn't long before the interest of those she left behind is gripped with this woman who some seem to recognise as Esme Grace. The killer was identified as Esme's father, who police claimed shot his family before turning the gun on himself. Esme has never been convinced that it was him, and now is as good a time as any to see if she can find out anymore about that dreadful night.
However, if you don't think your father did it, then that must mean that someone else from the village did, and if that is the case, other's may know too. Is Alison treading on dangerous ground by looking for a killer that has so far remained anonymous, and who can she really trust? Quite frankly, I'd trust no one and get out as soon as possible, but Alison is drawn into finding out the truth, and soon learns that nothing is really what it first seemed. I have to say, I think this would make a great television drama as it's very atmospheric.