‘The Crooked House’ is the first book by Christobel Kent.
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties and a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote house on a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else’s – or so she thought. Then one night violence was unleashed in the crooked house, in a nightmare that only Alison survived and from which she’s been running ever since. Only when she falls for the charismatic Paul does Alison realise that to have any chance of happiness, she must return to her old life and face a closed community full of dark secrets. As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?
The story starts right at the moment that 14 year old Esme’s life changes dramatically, when her whole family is tragically killed whilst she hides in her bedroom. The only survivors are herself and her father. It is discovered that her father killed the family whilst attempting to kill himself in a jealous rage but left himself in a vegetative state. Years later Esme has now become Alison and tries to lead a normal life, but there is still a gaping hole where her family had been but when she meets Paul and she finds this older and charismatic man interesting. She enjoys their interactions and the connections of a relationship until he asks her to be plus one at a wedding in Saltleigh, the small town she escaped many years ago
Scared of seeing old ghosts but also wanting to face the past, Alison returns home unprepared for what the short trip has in store. The story flows over the few days that Alison deals with opening old wounds and begins her own investigation as she believes it wasn’t her father who killed her family.
The story is extremely well written, filled with suspense and suspicious characters, everyone is a suspect and we begin to wonder what everyone’s role is in the story, particularly as people remember Alison and everyone has an opinion on the night, everyone involved and how a series of children’s deaths seem more than circumstantial.
I loved this book, the bleakness, poverty and closeness of the small town, riddled with characters who harbour secrets and ghosts made for thrilling reading, as secrets were uncovered and Alison makes some shocking finds along the way.
Alison’s a great lead, strong with a deep belief that the wrong person was charged with her family’s murders. She delves into her dark past and reunites with people, she had hoped she had left behind. I couldn’t warm to Paul, I found him creepy and intense and thought that their relationship was a strange sad secretive one.
Filled with drama and tension from the very beginning, ‘The Crooked House’ is a complex and wonderfully written debut that will have you gripped throughout.
You can buy The Crooked House from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.