Having read and enjoyed the previous books by Sanjida Kay, this was one I was eager to read.
The accidental death of a young child within a family must be an appalling, devastating experience to have to live through. This book perfectly illustrates the effects of such a death on other immediate family members but also the wider circle of family and contacts who were connected and loved the child.
When Ruby Mae accidentally drowns in a pond the day before her third birthday in her grandfather’s garden the effect on the family is catastrophic. From that day on her grief stricken parents Amy and Matt are just existing and going through the motions of their own broken family life. Trying to carry on looking after their remaining children as best as they can.
Blame and guilt are the two main emotions felt by the grieving adults, but fear, disbelief and lack of understanding are all experienced by Ruby Mae’s remaining siblings Lotte, Theo and half sister Chloe
The grandfather was perceived to be the neglectful one because he was thought to be responsible for Ruby Mae’s death by falling asleep half drunk after the child’s aunt Bethany had left the child in his care. His lack of any kind of apology or admittance of guilt leads to an estrangement between him and his children, Amy, Ruby Mae’s mother and Belinda and Nick aunt and uncle to Ruby Mae.
Anxious to escape from the distressing ramifications of the one year anniversary since Ruby Mae’s untimely, tragic death, Amy and Matt decide to try to rent somewhere overseas for the whole family to have a holiday. They manage to find a villa rental in Tuscany as a property in a small island off the Italian coast is available for all of them.
When Nick arrives at the villa, who should appear as the passenger he brings with him but the grandfather himself, much to the horror of Amy and Matt, but the children are delighted to see their grandfather again.
Chloe, Matt’s daughter and Amy’s stepdaughter is 15 and turning the heads of local young Italian males, particularly Carlos, son of the villa owners who keeps appearing in odd places and acting mysteriously.
The two young children, Lotte and Theo, feel the absence of Ruby Mae but are unable to comprehend her death and wonder where she’s gone and if she’s coming back. They hold a funeral for her doll on the beach. They admit that immediately after her death they helped themselves to different flavours of ice cream from the freezer because no-one was giving them meals. Amy realises that she neglected to care for them in her grief stricken state.
Therein is the setting for the book and the holiday home is full of simmering tensions. Words left unspoken, unreliable narrators, who each give their own version of events that happened a year ago. Lies, half truths, twisting stories and invention.
Worrying events lead to a betrayal of sorts, an admittance of guilt and bit by bit what exactly happened on the day Ruby Mae died is eventually revealed shocking everyone involved and blind siding me who didn’t expect that ending at all.
I never knew what was going to happen next. It messed with my head trying to work everything out.
A real page turning, twisty heartbreaking chilling thriller
With thanks to the publisher for my review copy via NetGalley. I also bought the book.
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