Published by: Pan Macmillan/Mantle
Date published: 19/08/2021
Date read: 11/08/2021
The case is unexceptional, that is what I know. A house full of stuff left behind by a dead woman, abandoned at the last . . .
When trauma cleaner Essie Pound makes a gruesome discovery in the derelict Edinburgh boarding house she is sent to clean, it brings her into contact with a young policewoman, Emily Noble, who has her own reasons to solve the case.
As the two women embark on a journey into the heart of a forgotten family, the investigation prompts fragmented memories of their own traumatic histories – something Emily has spent a lifetime attempting to bury, and Essie a lifetime trying to lay bare.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
Mary Paulson-Ellis is a brand new author for me so I had no expectations going into the book, other than the excitement the blurb and other reviews alluded to.
This is quite a hard book to read with a number of triggers such as child death, fat phobia, decomposition, mental health, and hoarding. It is upsetting and unsettling and uneasy. It’s exciting and electric, raw and truthful and unashamed.
This book is full of short chapters which I prefer. I think they make for a more pleasant read. There is a lot of description which I don’t always like but it feels necessary in this as it is painting us this unsettling picture.
For me, it’s more a story about the main character and her inner feelings rather than plot. It’s very much a character-driven story rather than plot-driven, in my opinion.
A couple of slightly negative points: I did find the first part a little repetitive and slow, but this did soon pick up. It’s also quite metaphor heavy. At first I didn’t mind this but I felt there were so many it lifted me out of the story on occasion.
It’s important to know, I think, that the Emily Noble in question doesn’t actually appear until chapter 38, so be prepared to have your focus on a number of other characters. This is quite a good thing actually as it’s more interesting to have various viewpoints. It does flit between time zones and the times are entwined which took me a little while to get my head round, but once you accept that, you can keep track of it.
I did get slightly lost at points, but I found the last few chapters really rounded everything up neatly, and definitely unexpectedly. Highly recommend.