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When someone is released from prison, after serving time for manslaughter, you don't necessarily expect their first task to be tracking down the victim's family. Perhaps their own family might be a more normal first port of call. But when you're Joseph Scott, the victim's family is your family, because the person you killed is your wife, Zoe. Let out after three years, Joseph is desperate to be reunited with his children, Scarlet, Theo and Ben, but his wife's parents, who have had custody of their grandchildren since he was locked away, are determined not to let that happen.
Hannah's reluctance is understandable. She's worked hard to create a stable environment for the children in the wake of the horror they witnessed (in the room as their mother died), and she has every reason to believe that Joseph's return to their lives will be at best highly unsettling, and at worst as traumatic as the original crime. The tug of war over the children may be one of love, but for someone to win the outcome they want, someone else has to lose terribly.
Told from the points of view of Joseph, Hannah, and Scarlet, the story seems well rounded as your perception of the characters comes from their own words and actions, not just how they are portrayed by other people. I especially liked that Scarlet was included, because although she is neither the son in law nor the one who has the son in law, she gives an important insight into family life before and after the tragedy.
Despite the drama-worthy plot, this seemed more like real life than an over-theatrical soap opera. Joseph is starting over in some ways, but trying to revert to his former life in others, and although he's the baddie, he's written in such a way that you are supposed to feel for him, and grow to dislike Hannah in the process.
This book bares many similarities to the author's earlier work. The writing style hasn't changed, which I appreciated as I find her words captivating and intense. The story moves on well, and the different perspectives build a fuller picture of the situation, while also keeping things varied and interesting. At the same time, my complaint about the earlier book is replicated here too. This is another very long story and while it kept me interested for the most part, I couldn't help but feel we could have got the same outcome in fewer pages. It would be a great holiday book if you only want to pack one or two that will last you a while, but for day to day reading when you have an ever-increasing stash in front of you, its length was a bit off-putting.
To give it its dues, though, I did enjoy this book that introduces the action from the very first page without any long winded introduction where you're waiting for the story to start.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback and on Kindle