In Her Blood, Nikki Crutchley
Author Nikki Crutchley always brings an interesting twist, or idea to her novels, and IN HER BLOOD is most definitely a perfect example of that. Gothic in feel, it's a thriller that's based around dual disappearances, with a big time gap, set in a haunted-house scenario with touches of a classic psychodrama, and a wonderful sense of place that carries the multiple timelines with considerable aplomb.
Crutchley's specialty has always been character development, and IN HER BLOOD presents the reader with a bunch of very damaged people, on a discovery tour of each other, and themselves. The story is based around Jac Morgan, back in her hometown for the first time in years, after vowing she'd never return. Years before, the fatal house fire that killed her mother was widely believed to have been her fault, but she's reluctantly returned despite the vow, because her sister, Charlie, has gone missing. Twenty years earlier, same town, Paige Gilmore, talented, beautiful, daughter of eccentric matriarch Iris, also vanished. The search for Charlie draws Jac to the Gilmore Hotel, the site where Paige vanished, the ultimate in haunted houses when Jac was a child. Turns out this hotel is still home to force of nature that is Iris, and her long-suffering surviving daughter, Lisa.
The hotel, it's gothic feel, the oddity of the Gilmore's, the weirdness of the town, and the conflict that Jac feels being back, looking for Charlie, working out what happened twenty years ago, and processing what happened around her mother's death, means there's a lot going on. Never resorting to over the top pacing, it's a slow, particularly creepy build up, where sometimes, just briefly, the dialogue can get a bit wobbly. But the atmosphere, and the depiction of the hotel and those women, all rubbing up against each other, all with secrets, and regrets is particularly effective. Somehow it's the regrets that seem to really come to the fore as everything inexorably marches towards a finale that's suspenseful, creepy, and cleverly executed.
Probably one for reading with the lights on, and preemptive investigation of the possible sources of things that go bump or squeak. Most definitely one for people exploring the nature of secrets, small towns, mysteries and the past never quite going away.
Two missing girls, two decades apart. Only one person knows the truth ...
Jac Morgan never planned on going back to her hometown. Seven years after the fatal house fire that killed her mother and branded Jac a killer she's back - but for only one reason. Her sister, Charlie, has gone missing. Charlie's the only good thing in Jac's life, and she doesn't believe she would ever run away. Jac is certain the answer to her sister's disappearance is somewhere in the town.
Because twenty years ago, another teenage girl went missing. Paige Gilmore, beautiful and talented daughter of eccentric matriarch, Iris Gilmore, disappeared on the annual Gilmore Hotel Open Day. As Jac starts the search for Charlie, she is drawn to the Gilmore Hotel - the haunted house of her childhood, a place that holds its own secrets and mysteries and is still home to the enigmatic Iris and her long-suffering daughter, Lisa.
Meanwhile, as Jac desperately hunts for answers to Charlie's disappearance, another Open Day looms, and Jac begins to realise everyone at the hotel has a secret - and that someone is willing to kill to keep the truth from coming out.