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.