In her late thirties, Jocelyn Holt is a recent widow. She and her ten-year-old daughter, Ruby, still grieving, move from California to the Wiltshire manor house where Jocelyn grew up. Financially strapped, Jocelyn must depend upon the generosity of her widowed mother whom she has always found to be unloving and cold.
“To have a child whom you love but who does not love you back is a particularly intense and unrelenting source of pain.”
She is surprised that her mother, Virginia, is quite besotted with her granddaughter Ruby. They seem to form an instant bond. This is something that both surprises and unsettles Jocelyn. She does not want her mother being any kind of influence on her daughter. She fears that Ruby’s spirit will be quelled by her mother’s arrogance, snobbishness and life of aristocratic privilege. Jocelyn was brought up by a Nanny and never really had any real attachment to her mother. When Jocelyn was seven years old, her nanny, Hannah, disappeared and afterward Jocelyn was sent to boarding school.
Not long after they move in, Jocelyn takes Ruby for a boat ride in the lake on the estate’s grounds. When they pull up at a little island in the lake, they make the gruesome discovery of a human skull…
The police descend on Lake Hall’s estate. The discovery of the skull is the talk of the village.
Shortly thereafter, a woman comes to the door of the manor house. She claims to be Hannah Burgess, the long lost Nanny. Jocelyn is overjoyed to make her beloved nanny’s re-acquaintance. Virginia, on the other hand is appalled…
Ruby dislikes her immensely. She posts online about her #evilnanny
This is my third novel by Gilly Macmillan and she never disappoints.
Ironically, the characters that most resonated with me were the ones I felt I was supposed to dislike – conversely, the characters which I felt I was supposed to like the most (i.e. Jocelyn), I felt myself disliking on occasion and I was often impatient with her.
I liked how each character gave their viewpoints in alternating chapters.
The setting, a grand English manor house and estate grounds were very appealing.
The plot had more than a few twists which will please those who love that sort of thing. I thought I had the story completely figured out about a third of the way through… needless to say that was probably the author’s devious plan. I was very wrong.
A novel of mistakes made, regrets, family secrets, misplaced trust, intimidation, emotional manipulation, and inter-generational relationships.
The ending I found immensely satisfying, though I suspect there will be a few readers who might not agree with me. I guess it depends on how you feel about what constitutes justice.
In summation, this diabolical psychological thriller is a prime example of the fine writing of Gilly MacMillan. If you haven’t yet tried one of her novels, this is an excellent one to start with. Just saying….
ISBN: 9780062875556 Length: 400 pages
Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew, The Perfect Girl, Odd Child Out, I Know You Know, and The Nanny. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.