The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

 How do you come to terms with being the only survivor in a tragedy that took the lives of your entire family when you were only fourteen?  Esme Grace huddled in her top floor bedroom as the sounds of a gun’s blast echoes throughout her family’s old , isolated house house.  When it’s quiet again, her mother and siblings are dead.  Esme’s father survives, damaged beyond repair and accused of the heinous crime that took the lives of the rest of the family.

Years later, Esme is now Alison, and she lives quietly in London far away from the painful memories and the town where she lost her family.  Alison’s only happiness is her current boyfriend, Paul, whom she has reluctantly let into her life.  Just as Alison is getting used to feeling stable in her new relationship, Paul gets invited to a friend’s wedding in Alison’s(Esme’s)  old home town, Saltleigh, a place Alison never intended to visit again.

Once back in the place where her life changed forever, all the memories Alison had blocked for so many years begin to emerge.  Was her father really to blame for the murder of his family that night long ago?  The story flashes forward and back,  between the past and the present, as Alison slowly remembers the time leading up the the night of the murders.  Memories are funny things…

This is a suspenseful, psychological thriller which oozes atmosphere like the marshes surrounding the dark English waterway which it overlooks.  Kent crafts a well-constructed story with a clever premise and realistic environment for the primary setting.  Strong believable characters inhabit Saltleigh’s dark oppressive town where bad things seem to happen-as if a malignancy inhabits the town .  If I were to make one small critique, it would be that there are maybe just one too many tragedies thrown into mix and just a little bit of light wouldn’t have gone amiss.  All and all though, an engaging, compulsive read.