The party was supposed to be the highlight of the summer. If only I’d known that night would destroy our lives…
All the neighbours were laughing, drinking out of plastic glasses and getting along. I almost felt happy. Almost forgot about the terrible argument earlier and the sinister messages I’d been receiving from a strange address all week, threatening to expose the lies behind my perfect life.
As we finished with the red and gold fireworks and welcomed everyone back to our house, I believed that everything would be okay.
But I didn’t know who I was inviting in.
I never could have imagined what would happen here, in our home, after I’d gone up to bed.
Everyone saw something different.
It’s my daughter’s word against the story the boy from down the road is telling. But how can I find out what really happened that night without everyone finding out the truth about me?
Honestly, this is a real slow-starter; I was halfway through the book before the street party events kicked in … and even further on before the real drama began. That said, there are a number of characters at play here, all wildly different and with their own baggage to bring to the party. Could those early chapters have been condensed? Probably. But having reached the end, I can say it was worth the wait.
The story focuses on a group of neighbours who live in the richest part of London – though not all can truly afford to be there. There are three women at the centre of the story
- Nella (future politician’s wife with lofty aspirations and more money than sense, and a desire to be seen to be doing good)
- Melissa (yoga queen and a very lovely stepmother but with an abusive husband)
- Ruby (florist, widowed, lives with her son and is very much on the edge of Nella’s group of helpers)
Nella plans on holding a fundraiser – not only will it make her look benevolent, but it won’t harm her husband’s political campaign either. So, she rallies her “friends” around. Melissa is Nella’s yoga teacher, and also best friend to Ruby who for the life of her cannot she why she has been invited to the inner sanctum.
Nella’s rather handsome husband – Marcus – is keen to get Ruby involved too, and offers to help out with getting her son an internship. Why he would do that is a mystery to Ruby (Could it be because her son is mixed race? Would a politician really be that shallow? ) However, Ruby is quite taken with Marcus’s attention … only to find out she is not the only woman he’s playing.
So, when the party finally begins, it looks like a great success. Until the police call around at Ruby’s house the next morning to speak to her son. Allegations have been made that will rock their world, its implications extending into the wider community too. No one is safe from the after effects of what is purported to have happened that night.
The story is told from the three women’s alternating viewpoints as they come to terms with the aftermath. It calls upon them to reflect upon their own situation, their behaviour, and the kind of world they want their kids to inherit. But, of course, neither woman will air their dirty laundry in public, and so the conundrum continues as to what really happened that night. Who is telling the truth? Who is covering for whom?
The final third of the book lived up to its “unputdownable” billing, though I still wouldn’t class it as a psychological thriller, more along the lines of women’s fiction with a suspense vibe.
What I didn’t like – apart from the slow start – was the constant dribble of “something’s going to happen soon” references, but I loved how the author grounded the characters (Ruby, in particular) in modern British cultural references. Of the three women, Ruby certainly came across as the most relateable.
Who I didn’t like – Melissa’s husband and Nella’s daughter top the list for me, but I loved Fin, Melissa’s stepdaughter, and Ruby and her son. The “good” characters were far from perfect, but the “baddies” were awfully good at being bad.
If you can tolerate a slow start, then you’ll be rewarding with a speedy ending that will leave your head spinning.