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by Sue Walker
HarperCollins, January 2006
320 pages
ISBN: 0060832657

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A group of schoolchildren spend a winter in a unit for disturbed adolescents in Scotland. They then go their separate ways, but 25 or so years later it becomes apparent that a secret they share is putting their lives at risk.

Innes Haldane is one of the children. She's now living in London and has a good job in the Official Receiver's office, but her life isn't stable. She's divorced, and still has panic attacks. And she thinks her carefully built-up life is going to come crashing down after a mystery phone call from Isabella Velasco, one of the other youngsters.

Innes can't bring herself to respond to the call, but several months later Isabella, a successful dentist, drowns in a London swimming pool. As Innes starts to investigate, she discovers that Danny, a Scottish farmer, is also dead; Lydia has lost her family in a house fire, and Simon's daughter has been abducted.

The idea for THE REUNION is good, but this is a book that never delivers. It ping-pongs backwards and forwards in time and between characters. If the intention is to unsettle the reader, it didn't work. All it did was confuse me and make me irritable.

Eventually I gave up trying to work out what chapter was set when, and hoped things would become clear in the end. They didn't particularly. The extracts from the medical notes might have worked better had the time settings following them been clearer.

It might also have been preferable had the story been told from one character's point of view -- that of Innes. She has reason to investigate, but suddenly we're whisked off elsewhere before we can get to know her and before she can get anywhere. This means the reader never gets to know and to empathise with any of the characters.

And unless I wasn't paying attention -- and I admit that's a possibility, given how bored I was with the book by the end -- there's one major strand that is never resolved.

In the end THE REUNION was a huge disappointment. I kept thinking there was something there for debut novelist Sue Walker to work with, but it all fizzled out with a 'home in time for tea' ending.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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