I have to say this is a gorgeously written book, but I didn't warm to any of the characters or indeed the plot. The beginning scenes with Helen's mother after death are really very nasty and I found myself skipping over them in order to get back to some kind of normality. If normality can be found here … I also skipped over some of the rather more difficult scenes later on, though I did get the gist of it all.
When it comes down to it, Helen's family situation is pretty awful and perhaps on occasions rather unbelievable. To the point that, here and there, I found myself almost sympathising with the quite dreadful mother, or at least feeling as if she might have a point. I did like Helen's father, though, and I wished we'd had more of him. All in all, Helen does have a better relationship with the men in her life. The relationship with her ex-husband is also very tenderly depicted, and I liked Jake. I could see why he'd left though, oh yes.
Overall, the first half of the book is perhaps a tad too slow, but it gets more into gear when the police come on the scene, and Helen has to make more and more interesting decisions. Sadly, however, the ending isn't as good as it should have been as the last paragraph is, frankly, ridiculous, and should have been dropped very early on in the editing process. It would have been a far stronger book if it had stopped at that glorious penultimate paragraph.
So, the story is grim and so are the characters. But, still, it's beautifully written.
Verdict: Beautiful but grim. 3 Stars.