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When household name Gaby Mortimer finds a body in the common near her London home, it is horrible and shocking, but the one thing she doesn't expect is to become the main suspect in the murder case. After all, she was just the one who found the poor woman's body. Surely the Police should be spending their time searching for a more likely assailant than a perhaps past her prime TV presenter? But it soon becomes clear that Gaby is the one they are fixating on, the one to whom they will try to make the limited evidence fit. And it's going to take everything she's got to convince them otherwise.
I absolutely adored this whodunit with a twist, or rather lots of twists. It's a poor Polish nanny who has been found dead, and a wealthy TV star who is the suspect - twist number one. In the aftermath, Gaby wants to maintain as normal a life as possible for the sake of her daughter, but the TV studio are less keen - twist number two. There does seem to be some circumstantial evidence linking the two women but Gaby insists, repeatedly, to the Police that they have never met - twist number three. And it goes on. With the Police clearly lacking a motive, but apparently unwilling to consider the possibility of other more likely assailants (what about the boyfriend? The housemates? A mystery lover?), it's down to Gaby to turn amateur sleuth with the help of a friendly fellow journalist to try to clear her name.
Gaby is a brilliantly likable character, who has a nice life but is seriously flawed at the same time. Even when she is arrested, she doesn't immediately tell her husband who is away on a business trip. Their relationship is stagnating somewhat, and she doesn't think him knowing would be much help, especially with him stuck over in Asia. Their old faithful nanny has recently left, so daughter Millie has a new caregiver, the somewhat brusque Marta. Could she somehow be involved, given the similarities in nationality and profession between her and the victim? It's at times like these that you need good friends, a support system around you, but Gaby's beginning to realise that's the one thing she lacks, and feels very much alone in the process.
I have been a fan of Durrant's writing, both for adults and for teens, for many years. She has great turn of phrase - I still remember "creamy with catches, like chocolate chip ice cream" from an earlier work - and weaves complex but not unpleasantly complicated plots with relatable heroines. I think this latest book is her best yet and I was hooked from the gruesome discovery to the last page with its unpredictable but brilliantly satisfying conclusion.
This is just the sort of murder mystery I like, heavy on the mystery without too many gritty murder details (after all, you have to find out who the murderer was before they can spill on how they did it, the only other witness being unfit to discuss the details). There are lots of potential suspects, at least to Gaby, but few apparent motives which makes the investigation frustratingly slow. The story itself unravels at a pleasing pace, and as the book is not a long one, every page is packed with something useful - an insight, a clue, a revelation. By the end it all seemed so obvious, even though I know I hadn't really seen it coming, but it's one I will want to re-read, knowing how it ends and wondering if that changes anything.
I really enjoyed this book and the pages kept turning as I read on and on to find out what was going to happen, if Gaby could clear her name, if the perpetrator could be brought to justice. This is a book that is crying out to be made into a mystery drama for the big or small screen, and I think it will be a true hit when it hits the shelves. I don't often say this about a book, but I thought it was perfect in every way.
This review originally appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback and on Kindle