Hannah, Sophie - 'Lasting Damage'
The opening chapter depicts Connie in a house with Kit, in fear of her life. She has just worked out that she is going to die because of a family called the Gilpatricks. Then the story moves back a week in time to the events leading up to the scene in the house. It seems that Connie and Kit are the perfect couple. They live in Melrose Cottage in the Culver valley, which Kit has lovingly renovated. They run a successful computer based business together (Nulli) with Connie doing the books a couple of days a week and still working for her parents' business (Monk and sons) on two other days. Connie is very close to her family who live nearby, spending lots of time with them. But something happened to Connie a few months ago to shake up her life and she started seeing a counsellor/homoeopath called Alice, and whatever it was that happened has affected her trust in Kit.
She appears to have some sort of obsession with Cambridge, and in particular with a house there, 11 Bentley Grove. Somehow she has discovered it has just been put up for sale. One week before the scene in the house, finds Connie sneaking into the study after Kit has fallen asleep, logging into the computer and looking at the house on the estate agent's website, ending up with the 360 degree virtual tour. To her horror, when she sees the living room, there lying on the floor in a pool of blood is a dead woman. She rushes to wake up Kit to show him, but as she waits outside, he tells her there is nothing there. He goes back to bed but Connie keeps loading and reloading the tour to try to convince herself she wasn't seeing things and that the dead woman wasn't in her imagination. However, the room remains stubbornly empty.
Connie decides to go to the police and ask them to investigate. She wants to talk to Simon, an old friend of Alice's, whom she thinks will be sympathetic, but he is on honeymoon with Charlie. Instead, she talks to a colleague of Simon's called Sam, who tries to step into Simon's shoes. Slowly, a few more details start to emerge, about how she and Kit nearly moved to Cambridge a few years ago. Kit had been a student in Cambridge, and on graduating was employed by Deloittes, and then offered a transfer to their Cambridge branch. Connie and Kit started looking for a house in Cambridge, a move away from Connie's family. In fact Connie admits to finding it so hard to leave she was physically sick every day that she and Kit were looking for a house in Cambridge. Despite this, she had been determined to go through with it as her family were so convinced she'd never be able to leave, (no one from the family ever does). However, Connie wanted to escape the claustrophobia and prove that she could. But then they lost the perfect house (17 Pardoner Street) that they wanted to buy to someone else, the Gilpatricks. Instead, they bought Melrose cottage in the Culver valley, and Kit left Deloittes to start his own business. And eight years on, they are still in Melrose cottage.
The detective, Sam, finds her story hard to believe, as without evidence it is hard to determine if Connie really saw a body, or whether she is just suffering from some sort of breakdown. But then another woman, Jackie Napier comes forward claiming she saw the dead body too and the police start to look into it more seriously. Yet investigations show no forensic trace of a murder at 11 Bentley Grove. And it seems someone hacked into the computer to replace the genuine tour with something else for about half an hour just when Connie and Jackie started to look. Why did this happen? Is Kit somehow involved? Is he trying to exacerbate Connie's feeling of madness? Is he lying, keeping things from Connie, or does he really love her as he claims?
Scattered throughout the book are police exhibits relating to items from the Gilpatricks, the people who gazumped Connie and Kit and bought the house in Pardoner Lane. Who are they, and how are they linked into the story?
A few more small facts start to slowly materialise that begin to give clues as to what might be going on and Connie starts to piece it all together. And in the end, so does Simon, disturbed from his 'no contact with anyone' honeymoon, and returning home early to work on the case in his own time. In the end, it's Connie's determination to show that she isn't mad, that she really did see a body, and that something quite extraordinary is going on that pushes the story forward, with Simon quickly catching up behind, through his own investigations.
It's a deeply complex story where nothing is quite what it seems at first glance, and people are not whom they appear to be. Some aspects of the story are rather incredible (if someone came into your house every day and used it while you were out at work, would you just simply think it was haunted?) It's clear that Kit is not quite the person he pretends to be from the start, but the slowly leaking flow of information that leads to the unveiling of the disturbing truth about Kit is skilfully told. An engrossing, story that had me hooked.
Read another review of LASTING DAMAGE.
Michelle Peckham, England