Crown, 2012 (2012)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
he author of the outstanding
has done it again - in fact she's outdone herself. It's hard to come up with enough superlatives to do justice to
, a brilliant mystery where the two key investigators are both in a coma. Although the novel has resonances with Alice Sebold's wonderful
The Lovely Bones
, it has an entirely different flavor. As in
, the story centers on love and fear for loved ones, but this time it is a fierce maternal love.
he Coveys are a seemingly perfect family. Successful dad Mike produces series for the BBC, while Grace, the mother, has given up her career for her family but works part-time. There's seventeen-year-old '
funny, lively, buoyant
' Jenny, and shy, brave eight-year-old Adam. In fact Jenny is acting as school nurse the day it all begins, at the Sidley House School sports day. Most of the children are outside when Grace sees smoke coming out of the building and runs towards it. Realizing that Jenny is still on the top floor, she rushes right into the blaze '
at the velocity of a scream.
fter the disaster, Gracie wakes up in hospital, out of body, and seeks her daughter. Jenny is horribly burnt and in a coma. But she's also out of body. Together and separately, they try to understand what happened. So does Mike Covey's police officer sister Sarah (who's always intimidated Grace). She learns that it was arson. It's impossible not to identify with this family under siege, as things get worse and worse and worse. Sarah's colleagues accept the word of a witness who claims that small Adam set the fire. Grace appears to have brain damage. And, without a miracle, Jenny has only a short time to live.
radually we learn that Jenny was a victim of hate-mail and was being stalked; that the private school is in serious financial trouble; that Adam's beloved teacher, who was unfairly fired, might have been involved; that the husband of Gracie's best friend Maisie's is abusive; and that someone is still trying to kill Jenny, in her hospital bed. The horrors that unfold contrast starkly with Gracie's memories of loving family interactions. But throughout the novel, Grace Covey consistently demonstrates the strength of a mother's love, especially when she tells us: '
There is no happy ever after - but there is an afterwards.
t's easy to predict that
is and will remain one of the top three novels of 2012. Its ending is inevitable but perfectly fitting. Rush out to get a copy - and add
too if you haven't discovered it yet. They are both brilliant reads.
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