by Olivia Isaac-Henry
A cheating wife. An estranged mother. But is she guilty of murder?
Please raise your right hand.
An affair at work has cost Julia Winter her job and her marriage. There’s no denying she has let her family down.
Please remain standing.
When a body is discovered on the North Downs, it hits local headlines. But for Julia, the news is doubly shocking because the body was buried just opposite the house she lived in over twenty years ago. And it is one of her former housemates.
Please resume your seat.
Up on the stand, Julia’s not the only person to have secrets that are unearthed during the trial. But the evidence against her is overwhelming.
And yet one question remains: is she the murderer, or the victim?
Jurors, you may be excused.
I’m a sucker for a courtroom trial, so the blurb drew me in instantly. It was quite some time before the story got to the trial stage and I did think I’d missed something key in that summary to the effect that there would be no trial …and then it came. Oh happy days! It was worth the wait, well worth it.
The story runs along multiples timelines, primarily 1994 and 2018.
In 1994, Julia Winter has broken up with her boyfriend, Christian, and needs to starts afresh somewhere new. Unfortunately, she can’t get over the fact that he dumped her for another girl, and so in her haste to get away, prove she is strong and independent, she takes a room at the home of Genevieve D’Auncey in Guildford. It is here that she meets Brandon Wells, the man she is later accused of killing. Other tenants are also included in this act – Alan & Gideon – and the three are on trial for Brandon’s murder when his body is found in 2018.
Genevieve is a strange lady, grieving for her missing son (she clings to the fact that he may still be alive following an accident in the Alps) and, as a result, she takes a shine to Brandon. This favouritism leads to some animosity between other tenants, and her sister, Ruth, is particularly concerned about his affect on Genevieve.
When Genevieve takes her own life, the tenants eventually disperse and carry on with their lives. But the situation left behind comes back to haunt them.
Initially, Brandon is accused of theft and his disappearance explained as such, but when his remains are found on the Downs some 23 years later, then the mystery is reignited.
DNA points to Julia being involved, and Alan and Gideon are accused too. The three of them face trial, their legal defences all agreeing that none should testify.
The trial that follows is fascinating and dramatic as twists and turns reveal yet more secrets and potential scenarios. It is here that the reader finally learns the truth about the events leading up and after Brandon’s murder. It is here when the real personalities of the three tenants are revealed, none of them are hugely likeable, some more monstrous than others, but the way the author delivers this information is sublime and kept me hooked. delivering
There is a very clever twist at the end with an unexpected yet satisfying outcome.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and have to express my thanks to the author, Oliver Isaac-Henry for such an entertaining story, and to the publishers, Avon and One More Chapter, imprints of Harper-Collins for enabling this chance to read such a fabulous book.