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on 10 February 2013
The story focuses on the McBride family, a close knit clan who prize education and justice highly, not least because the Mother and Father of the family are a magistrate and a headteacher respectively. We begin the book with the death of the beloved family matriarch, Lydia, and learn she has a secret she took to her grave, a secret that if revealed would have dire consequences. Fast forward a year and we see the family on their first gathering since her death and the son of the family has brought along his beautiful and enigmatic girlfriend, Kerry. The gathering gets off to a rocky start and bad turns to worse when Kerry disappears along with the baby of the oldest McBride daughter.

The plot is silly, there is a "twist" and the whole thing just get more ridiculous with each plot point. Of course the main events of the book happen in a place with no mobile phone reception and the key witness lacks credibility and the whole thing relies on bizarre coincidences and the stupidity of our main cast of characters. I didn't think much of the reveal of Lydias wrongdoing, yes it had terrible consequences but once again those consequences relied so heavily on ridiculous coincidences that I felt let down.

One dimensional doesn't begin to describe the weakness of the characterisation, all but one of the characters seem to exist on either end of a moral scale of good and evil and when their actions deviate from these positions it seems completely out of character rather than any sort of nuance. I found Lydia especially(whose voice we hear through flash backs, letters and diaries) to be mind numbingly dull, smug and arrogant and not in the least bit sympathetic. We are constantly reminded that Lydia loves her kids and her kids love her... well... err... isn't that the norm? Surely it goes without saying that generally speaking Mothers love their children? Kelly tells rather than shows the great child rearing abilities of the amazing Lydia and provides us with a another Mother who fails in her duty as a counterpoint. In fairness this "other Mother" is integral to the story and her role in the book is the reason I gave it two rather than one star. I found this to be one of the best parts of the book, Kelly writes this character well getting the balance of victim and abuser just right. Unfortunately this just served to highlight the poor characterisation of the rest of the characters.

I quite enjoyed Erin Kellys first book and seeing the rave reviews for this made me optimistic that I would enjoy this too. Well I didn't and I have trouble reconciling my experience of this book with the rave reviews of others.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 26 January 2014
I've had a run of boring books over the last few weeks so was relieved to read this one which kept me gripped.
A family gathers at a remote house for Bonfire Night: Rowan, the recently widowed father, and his daughters Sophie and Tara, and his son Felix, and their partners and children. In their midst a stranger, Felix's new girlfriend. When she disappears with Sophie's baby, the family are launched into a a terrifying situation with its roots deep in the past.
The book then moves back several years to a new thread about an odd child named Darcy, and his obssessive mother. This sets the scene for what comes to follow, and the book becomes even more gripping from this point, particularly from the time of a shocking revelation about halfway through.
The story is told from the points of view of various characters and this works really well. It is a tense and menacing read, the plot is probably fairly unlikely but then it's fiction so who cares?
I'd read Erin Kelly's first book which I enjoyed but this is much better, a really good read which keeps you desperate to turn the pages, and I look forward to her next.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 January 2013
Having been highly disappointed with "The Sick Rose", the authors follow up to the completely brilliant "The Poison Tree", I started this, her third novel, with some trepidation. By about chapter three I knew there was nothing to worry about. The story sucked me in, and I completed the book in under a day. The synopsis available is all the plot detail you need to decide if this novel interests you, so I won't go into any more detail because I think that the less knowledge you have about where this is all going, the better for your enjoyment. However, I will say this - about half way through the book, the author pulled the rug out from under me, with a superb twist in the tale that I really did not see coming. From then on it was a breathless rush to the finish to see how the heck it was all going to turn out. So Thank you Erin Kelly - my faith in you is restored. Quite Brilliant.
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on 19 November 2014
This was my bonfire night read, and was a firecracker of a book. It begins with a quote from The Inspector Calls “but Inspector, he’s just a boy!” and what this refers to only becomes clear in the midsection of the story. The story is told from the perception of a number of different characters, some in the first person where we hear their unique voices and motives with immediacy. The third person accounts, whilst still focusing on an individual’s point of view, feel more detached, more observed from the outside. This gives contrast with the first person narrative and gives a variety of angles to view from.

The story focuses around the extended McBride family with grandparents, adult children, their partners and offspring. They have gathered together at the family's holiday retreat in Devon as they do every year to celebrate Bonfire Night, attend the Tar Barrels festival, and this year, to scatter the ashes of their mother Lydia. The story starts with an excerpt from her diary as she finds out she is terminally ill, and this hints at a deep secret about something she has done in the past that would destroy the family if it is revealed. And the family is a privileged one, very fortunate, very spoiled which shapes their characters and lends a certain smugness to each of them.

The imagery of burning and bonfires are relevant not only to the time of the year in which the action takes place, but because this festival is steeped in tradition, hence the family gathering each year. As well as being a means of celebration and providing warmth, fire is also a force for destruction and this links well with the aim of complete obliteration of the family which lies at the heart of the story.

The major twist in this story concerns the character of Darcy who we can be ambiguous about whilst still admiring (if that is the correct word) Darcy’s determination and intelligence. That said, the channelling of this determination and self-improvement was fuelled by and consequently perpetuated obsession. If one outcome in the past had been different (ie obtaining a scholarship to a prestigious school) it is suggested that this story would never have had to be told. But would it, in another time, another place, a different guise? Here we have a damaged, jealous, bitter individual who is obsessed with reinvention, but I feel that character has been moulded and shaped at a very early age and similar havoc would have been wreaked in a different form. Darcy is a crazy, vindictive octopus with whom I had no sympathy; using jealous tentacles to reach out and entrap, damage and scar every single member of the McBride family and to one degree or another, succeeding.

A gripping read, very well written and constructed, full of messed-up characters and revelations that continually surprise the reader, this is a psychological study of more than one character with a bombshell twist that works amazingly well despite being revealed in the middle of the book. The twist at the end, however, Lydia’s secret, was not quite so big as I thought it was.

Erin Kelly has mastered the art of combining suspense with quality prose and this was a terrific read.
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on 27 February 2015
her best book yet.absolutely brilliant.Erin Kelly's strength is writing a slow burning story that has great believable characters.caught up in a situation that spirals out of control.after reading thriller/crime novels for years i've found her to be a breath of fresh air.instead of writing about grumpy detectives or tough extra-ordinary individuals battling against a cunning enemy,she takes a bunch of ordinary people and puts them into a story that slowly unfolds into a nightmare.the thing with her stories is that most of the time there isn't an obvious villain or danger until you find out whats going on that all adds to the growing sense of unease that something bad is happening.and.without spoiling it,this novel had what i consider one the best twists i've ever read in 25 years of enjoying thrillers.i challenge even the most seasoned reader to see it coming! if you're a mystery/thriller reader wanting something fresh and a bit different give it a go
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 January 2013
This is definitely one of those books best read in a single sitting without too much time to probe the credibility issues. Opening in 2013, then skipping back in time about 17 years, it shifts narrative points of view - and offers a jaw-dropping twist mid-way through.

As is often the case with these sort of psychological thrillers the plot is, at heart, wildly melodramatic and hugely overblown, and there are probably far too many mentally-disturbed people than we ought to find in one book - we don't so much need to suspend our disbelief as leave it firmly in the cupboard.

That said, this is gripping and hugely enjoyable - perfect for an early night or a wintry weekend on the sofa.
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Lydia opens her diary, picks up her pen and prepares to commit her sins to its pages. Overwhelmed by her illness she finishes her entry by stating `A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.' These words underpin the rest of one of the darkest stories I have read.

Set over a weekend from 1st to 3rd November 2013 Lydia's family get together at Far Barn in Saxby Devon to spread her ashes. Lydia's husband Rowan, her adult children Sophie, Tara and Felix gather together along with an assortment of partners and offspring. Without a television or mobile signal and only a tape deck and record player for music being at Far Barn is like going back in time and that is without the family memories of former holidays. The scene is set for a claustrophobic weekend where the consequences of the past make themselves known. When Felix's new girlfriend disappears with Sophie's baby on bonfire night the secrets of the past come tumbling out with each character having a part to play in this well-crafted story.

This was a riveting read with carefully presented twists along the way. Erin Kelly showcases her talents as a master of plotting. The characters that inhabit the pages of this book were distinct and when revelations were made about them these assimilated with previous knowledge with no jarring at all.

This is right up there as one of the best books I have read this year; I'd go as far as to say Barbara Vine has a worthy rival.
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on 20 December 2013
This is the second book I have read by Erin Kelly and I was not disappointed. As a fan of phsychological thrillers it is hard to find books that original and not too easy to guess the outcome. Ms Kelly managed to keep my interest and keep me thoroughly entertained all the way through with a good strong ending that left me wanting more. I will certainly read more of this authors work.
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on 14 October 2013
I thought it was not up to the usual standard of Erin Kelly's previous books, but stayed with it although it was very slow going. Such a shame as I have so enjoyed all of her previous books. For me - better luck next time.
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on 9 August 2013
I am so delighted to have been recommended Erin Kelly's books: this was the first I read and I have already ordered another as the quality of the writing and the plot in this book were superb. The story is one which captures the deepest fears and worries within families: the love parents feel for their children and the lengths to which they will go to protect them (and indeed the love and care which children show for their parents). The narrative is generous and well paced: we get a real feel for the characters as the focus moves from one to another within the book. The time-frames move around but this is well signposted and brings understanding for the reader before the characters: a lovely means to bring the reader closer to the action and give the reader a sense of perspective different to the protagonists. Ironically that knowledge leaves the reader more powerless than the characters: the tension in the book escalates to the point where you don't want to know yet can't look away as the resolution unfolds. I loved this.
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