I’m a bit behind in my Goodreads challenge this year so I thought I’d cheat a little and read a novella that has been on my Kindle for a while. The title and cover seemed in keeping with this time of year.
Set near Bristol, England, this novella length mystery features thirty-five year old Matthew Stanyer. Matthew has come home to Bristol because his mother is ill. Not physically, but at just fifty-five years of age she is suffering from early onset dementia. His father, Joe Stanyer, is still working full-time as the groundsman for the Blackwater Estate, and therefore unable to care for her by himself. Joe is rapidly reaching the end of his emotional tether.
When Matt visits his family home, he finds both his parents missing. That is unusual in itself as his mother rarely, if ever, leaves the house. Then he finds a note from his father… He has no option but to call the police – knowing that if he does so, his horrible family secret will be exposed to the world. The secret, the reason Matt left home all those years ago, was that his mother was an extreme hoarder. Back when Matt was a teenager he couldn’t invite any friends to his house for fear they would see the chaos that was his home. Now, many years later, it had gotten exponentially worse…
When the police discover the bodies of both of his parents near Blackwater Lake, Matthew’s story becomes more complicated.
Grieving, Matthew is forced to tackle clearing out his parents home. He needs several dumpsters to contain the years of trash, clothing, out of date canned food, and other assorted papers and bric-a-brac. During the clean-out he comes to find clues that will shed light on the reason his mother began hoarding. Also, a scandalous, decades old family secret is gradually revealed. Secrets that just might be found beneath Blackwater Lake. A secret for which his mother paid a terrible price…
I had never read anything by Maggie James before, so had no expectations one way or the other about this read. I was pleasantly surprised that even though it was novella length, it read like a good mystery novel. Although we didn’t get to learn a lot about Matthew’s character, what we did know was enough for me to care about the outcome of his investigation into his parent’s past. The plot was interesting and the story well-paced. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I will definitely look out for other Maggie James titles. Recommended!
Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practicing yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love! You can follow Maggie James on Twitter @MJamesFiction