Tired of being stuck indoors, twin sisters Abigail and Olivia Duncan plead to be allowed outside to play. Despite their father insisting that they stay indoors while he works on clearing out the old barn, their mother relents and the two young girls take to the fields to play a game of hide and seek. Only Abigail hides just a little too well…
Set over a week, the story follows the investigation into Abigail’s disapperance and its impact upon the family. Called in to act as Family Liaison Officer, DC Jennifer Knight is expected to draw upon her ‘unusual’ talents, her link to the Operation Moonlight team being deemed invaluable in order to try and gain some insight into just what has happened to little Abigail. Her twin Olivia has not uttered a word since Abigail went missing and nobody knows why. Is it simply because she is missing her sister, or is it the long rumoured psychic bond of twins telling her that Abigail is gone and won’t be coming back?
Nothing within the family is as it seems – from the picture perfect mother who is more obsessed with her public persona that weeping for her daughter, to the father, a Police Sergeant, who has a secret or two of his own. There is a sense of unease surrounding the house, not just because of the negative energy of those who inhabit the farm in the present. There is some kind of spirit or manifestation within the house itself, something which seems to cause all manner of unexplained phenomenon, driving all former residents to flee, a presence which Jennifer unwittingly connects with as she tries to find a way to communicate with Olivia.
A whispered promise, a series of flashbacks through the diary entries of a very hurt and disturbed individual, and a person on the periphery of the investigation who isn’t quite what they seem, all serve to throw up a series of curveballs which will keep you guessing right up to the end. Yes, you may have suspicions of more than one of the characters, but then the art of this book is the simple misdirection. In truth the answer is staring everyone in the face and yet they are all too blind to see.
It is not easy to be sympathetic to the parents in the story, despite their situation, as their need to keep their own secrets seems to outweigh or hamper their desire to help their daughter. The lead character, Jennifer Knight, gives us an essential balance against the intensity of their reactions and also the impetuous nature of her DCI who seems determined to solve the case quickly, no matter the lack of evidence.
The narrative is strong, and the pacing is just right, carrying the reader along to the conclusion. I found the descriptions at times to be very poetic, almost lyrical, painting a clear picture to me of the landscape and the heartbreak, the hatred and the unease of the residents, both living and not and they created a chilling and atmospheric world full of doubt and suspicion. To some, and it really depends on personal preference I suppose, the supernatural or otherworldly elements of this novel may seem a little out of place, but to be honest they add to the appeal for me. I love a good ghost story and the understanding that there is quite possibly more to this world than the tangible. It doesn’t dominate the text, balanced against the simple fact that sometimes evil merely walks in human form.
Caroline Mitchell has created a very strong story which dissect the complexity of our frail human nature. How should one react if your child goes missing? Hopefully most people will never find out and yet none of the themes from this novel are drawn merely from fiction. They are a stark reality and the reactions and interactions are very well observed. I shall be going back to read the first two in the series now and wait patiently on the next offering.