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by Louise Millar
Pan, April 2013
351 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330545019

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Some people are lucky in life. Some aren't. Most muddle through. But after losing her parents to a freak accident and her husband to a senseless murder, Kate Parker has become convinced she is cursed and overcompensates wildly to avoid further disasters. Even she recognises she has become obsessive and is pushing away her surviving family and in danger of alienating her own son. As a not too sympathetic ex-soldier, after seventy pages of this creepy and dissonant domestic drama I was in full sympathy with her worried in-laws and considering this clearly neurotic woman a case for sectioning under the Mental Health Act.

In what is a slow burner, Millar's great strength is her ability to convey her risk-averse character's sense of insecurity and to create an atmosphere of unease in which nothing is quite as it appears that never entirely goes away and blend it into a well-written and compelling story.

When a new man a visiting lecturer and well-known author whose subject is chance and probability enters her life, Kate thinks it's time to put her past behind her but is that ever going to be possible? As her new friend becomes her mentor he pushes her into wilder and wilder tests to prove she can overcome her fears of imagined danger, she begins to realise that she can overcome them. But just when she is beginning to consider a new life built around her growing confidence, things start to go wrong.

Towards the end, the plot falters a bit with some pretty dramatic implausibilities, but despite that, this is a gripping and compelling study of the effects of the growing flood of health and safety statistics which haunt our everyday life on a mind which has already been put under severe strain by real events.

Kate Parker, neurosis and all, is a startling real character, a country girl whose marriage into a wealthy professional family has left her unprepared for the nastier side of life. Little doubts have assumed massive proportions even in her closest relationships and if she cannot rediscover her will to fight, she knows she is on the road to madness.

It's clever, disturbing and in places positively creepy perhaps not something to read if you're of a nervous disposition and alone in the house!

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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