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by Claire Douglas
Harper, August 2022
400 pages
ISBN: 0063246325

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE COUPLE AT NUMBER 9 opens with Saffy, twelve weeks pregnant and just beginning to sort out a life with her partner Tom, pulling weeds in front of the Cotswold cottage that, through a bit of unexpected luck, has become their home. But the discovery of two decades-old skeletons in the back garden during renovations jolts Saffy and Tom out of their dream of an idyllic family life in a charming village, especially considering that it was likely that Saffy's grandmother and mother lived in the cottage when the skeletons were bodies that got buried. Before long, Saffy finds herself caught up in the search for answers to family secrets and struggling with the unbelievable fact that her beloved grandmother could be involved in a murder, as well as a somewhat challenging relationship with her mother, sinister threats, and the reality that everything is made murkier by her grandmother's Alzheimer's.

Alternating among several characters' points of view, THE COUPLE AT NUMBER 9 explores family relationships as much as it does a murder mystery, questioning how we define family and how the unexpected discovery of secrets can strain even the strongest of loyalties, requiring us to make hard choices about how we view ourselves and our world. That aspect of the novel adds interesting depths to the complicated plot. The plot itself is intriguing with its twists and turns, but while it's clever, it's not impenetrable, and the reader may figure out the solution before reaching the end of the book, robbing the surprising conclusion of some of its power.

Author Claire Douglas's main strength may lie in the portrayal of mother/daughter relationships: those rang particularly true, and, as stated earlier, it's those relationships that give the novel some needed depth. Overall, the pace of the novel keeps the pages turning quickly, the plot is interesting enough to keep the reader involved through to the end—even if that ending is guessed at before arriving—and the novel itself is a nice twist on a classic village cozy, adding elements of a psychological thriller to quicken the pace and disturb the peace.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, July 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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