by Simon Beckett (Bantam Press, RRP $38):
With the mystery and intrigue kicking off from the very first page, we meet the book’s main character Sean as he is on the run, but with no indication of why or from whom.
He is driving in something of a panic, a bit battered and bruised and in a car that is about to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
But what it lacks in fuel, it makes up for in blood, which is apparently smeared across the seats, the iron- rich smell permeating the stifling air of the car.
It’s hot, isolated and miserable. And, yes, he does run out of gas.
He sets off on foot but along the way comes to grief in a field in France, getting himself caught in a trap and ending up badly injured.
As he loses consciousness, Sean has almost given up hope of surviving so is somewhat surprised when he wakes up to find he has been “rescued”.
Found by the daughter of the farmer who set the trap, he has been taken back to their farm and is cared for by both her and her younger sister.
However, their father Arnaud isn’t happy when he discovers the stranger recuperating in their barn and immediately attacks the young Englishman.
Eventually, though, he allows him to stay in exchange for working on the farm. It’s an uneasy truce between the two men and, as time goes by, Sean begins to wonder if he is a patient or a prisoner.
He also wonders just why Arnaud has gone to such great lengths to isolate his family from the outside world.
As it all comes to a head, we finally learn the truth about why Sean was on the run in the first place, the dark secrets of the French farmer and his daughters, and what Sean must do to make things right.
The story jumps backwards and forwards from the farm in France to back in England, and the events that led up to the one awful thing that had Sean on the run. While I sometimes find that type of storytelling disjointed, in this case author Simon Beckett has blended the two stories perfectly.