Read by Colleen Prendergast
9 Hours 21 Minutes
Published Atria June 2016
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people's houses. You've known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her 13-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
The book opens with Pip caring for her mother, Clare, who has had well too much to drink at a neighborhood party in the garden square behind their flat. That done, she ventures out into the garden to look for her sister. Now, if you didn't fully read the publisher's summary, you'll read Pip's discovery of Grace and know that Grace has been raped and murdered. So I hope you didn't fully read the publisher's summary. Because part of what I liked about this book is that assumption I made early on - it certainly colored how I read the book from there on out. Especially when it's revealed that thirty years ago, a young woman was found in the garden square, dead of an apparent drug overdose. But questions have always lingered and now they come back to the forefront, in no small part because that girl's then-boyfriend and her sister still leave on the garden square.
Clare has moved her girls to the flat (for reasons that will later be revealed) and we learn through Pip's letters to her dad (who is where, we wonder) that Clare is less worried about what might happen to them on the garden square than the danger they might face from their father. But gradually we learn that some of the denizens of the homes surrounding the garden might be a threat. Could Leo, the father of a trio of sisters Grace befriends, have a thing for young girls? Could his father, Gordon, who has come to stay while he recovers from surgery, be a dangerous pervert? Even Leo's wife, Adele, begins to worry about the attentions Leo pays to one of the neighbor girls, especially when she learns that he had a sort fling with the dead girl's then 13-year-old sister.
Jewell opens with the discovery of Grace and then we travel back to "Before," when Clare and the girls first arrive in the neighborhood, up to the discovery of Grace's body. After that we leap to "After" and the investigation into what happened to Grace. It's a long, slow reveal, which could have felt like it went on too long but never did, as Jewell gradually reveals additional details and how those details affect the families involved.
My book club read this one for May and it was a hit that resulted in a good conversation. There are the red herrings, there are the differences between the ways that Adele and Clare mother their daughters, there is the side piece of Grace's and Pip's dad, there is a lot to unravel about how the past affects the future, and there is the moral piece of how the attacker(s?) were dealt with.
This is no police procedural, no story of a serial killer being tracked down, race to find a killer before it's too late. Instead it's a mystery/thriller about the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives. And isn't that just about the scariest thing there is?