Think of the sort of murder mystery you've seen on tv or read many, many times, with all the familiar clichés and plot twists. Throw in some clunky dialogue, unlikely situations, stereotypical characters and superficial psychology, and you've got this book. And on top of all that, the author seems to specialise in my two pet hates:
Firstly, everything and everyone is over-described. Do we need to know that it's "the largest hospital in the area, it had been a Victorian foundation, redeveloped in the best brutalist style during the 1960s. It occupied a vast site near a dual carriageway..." Or to be told that "there was something about his eyes, a deep-seated disillusionment and distrust that suggested he had heard too many lies..." Whatever happened to show, don't tell?
Secondly, the heroine is the queen of Mary Sue victims: suffering beautifully, she's vulnerable and brave - and incredibly annoying. All the male characters gather round her like moths round a flame, including the hard-boiled older policeman (unlikely) and his handsome and available sidekick (predictable). Her mother is almost cartoon-like in her awfulness - think Cinderella's stepmother - but she's right about the lovely Sarah: it is all about her, all the time ... "Don't try to understand me. Don't try to fix me. I'm far too broken..."
(And there's a third: an interview with the author at the end - after just one book. No, I don't want to know what Jane Casey's top five books of all time are).
At the end, after the police eventually get round to investigating the weirdo over the road, and one final over-the-top scene involving a crossbow (!) and some scissors, hero and heroine can finally drive off into the sunset together.
I'm bemused by all the four and five star reviews, and Sophie Hannah's glowing endorsement on the cover. For me, this "satisfying psychological thriller" failed on all three counts.