I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it would have been 5 Stars, it really would, if I hadn't sort of figured it out by around the halfway mark. I suppose I have deducted a star for personal smugness here - I wanted to be wrong and for there to be some earth shattering revelation that I didn't see coming, but I didn't get that so I am going to be cruel and knock a star off.
There are really two main threads that weave through this story. The first is the murder of "The Girl Next Door", 16 year old Claire, beautiful but cowed who has secrets in her past and is doing her best to overcome them. Unfortunately, she is in the wrong place at the wrong time and she loses her life. The second is the story of any medium sized town. The difference with Ashdon is that the inhabitants seem to be mainly wealthy (or have the impression of wealth).
First off there is Claire as she slowly reveals the events of that February evening. She is a troubled girl, struggling to come to terms with her father's death from cancer, her mother's subsequent remarriage and the awfulness of being 16.
Then we have Madeleine, local police officer who lives close to the main hub of the crime. She is rather difficult to get a feel for on the page, but she is fairly likeable. She seems to be driven not just be a need to know the absolute truth but by a need to see past all the facades that people throw up. Unfortunately for Madeleine the town gossip and outright lies whispered in to her ears do cloud her judgement of the events surrounding Claire's death and cause her to make some bad decisions.
Finally there is our main narrator, Jane. I hated this character almost from the off. At first she seems just like any self-centric, commuter belt, stay at home mum and I kept waiting for something to be revealed about her inner life rather than the outer one that she is so vehement about projecting. Everything is about appearance to this woman and you immediately feel that there has to be something more. For me, as the something more began to be revealed I realised that this woman is a true Sociopath and couldn't manage to read her sections without sitting in sneering judgement over this character.
The plot cannot really be discussed here as I am likely to start pontificating and give everything away. It is very nicely woven together with natural peaks and troughs in the telling and some lovely little vignettes of small town life. A couple of time the Stepford Wives are referred to by Jane and it is a pretty accurate assessment. There is a good balance between the murder inquiry and the daily routines of life but it is really the behind the scenes of the town that capture the imagination.
THIS IS AN HONEST AND UNBIASED REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED VIA THE PIGEONHOLE.