Clare Cassidy, high school English teacher, is stunned when her friend and coworker is murdered. Shock turns to fear when she realizes the killer is referencing author R.M. Holland, the mystery writer Cassidy is researching.

Inscrutable clues hover just around the edges of Holland’s stories and former home.  His house is now a school but the writer’s attic remains in the study. Additionally, his most famous short story seems to have inspired the killer.

Enter DS Harbinder, the beyond no-nonsense officer who is unafraid and unamused by this killer’s attempt to be coy.

Cassidy’s teenage daughter Georgia is adjusting to her parents’ divorce and navigating the pitfalls of adolescence.

The book alternates between these three narrators, each with distinct voices. Cassidy is smart and independent but understandably worried. Harbinder is sharp but impatient with anything extraneous to the case. The layout is most effective when the reader sees the same events happen through the eyes of another narrator.

R.M. Holland’s attic study has been left virtually unchanged since the day he died. It’s kept locked but, as a senior teacher and the resident Holland expert, I have the key. I want to go up there after school finishes and have a look around. I’ve been there before, of course. We even give tours sometimes. But this time I want to have a proper look at the photographs. … There’s a preternatural silence as I walk along. There’s carpet here, unlike the parquet on the ground floor and the ghastly lino in the New Building. It’s green, like moss, and it seems to cushion my footsteps. The doors are all shut and, like an exercise in perspective, the lines all point to the end of the corridor where the spiral staircase leads to R.M. Holland’s study. ~ Pp. 63-4

I picked up this one as I was going to bed and stayed up way too late with it. I only stopped because my reading light very inconveniently died. I spent the next day eager to return to it again. and the first 150 pages or so were truly gripping. However, the momentum and succinctness fades. And when the solution is finally revealed, it isn’t nearly as satisfying as it should be for all the careful set-up. It is a strong, enjoyable read but it slipped from a five to a four star as I reached the end.

Note: For animal lovers, the dog is fine.

My rating:

My thanks to HMH for the ARC.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 5, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1328577856
ISBN-13: 978-1328577856

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