16 June 2016
When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.
But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?
As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:
‘You will be dead by Christmas.’
I loved that the chapters start at ‘178 Days Before Christmas’, putting the reader in the unusual position of knowing when something will happen, it really helped to build up the tension as the countdown to Christmas began and continued throughout the book.
Due to the fantastic historic descriptions in this novel, you could be forgiven for thinking you had picked up a history text book at some points, although it really does work in the book. Tremayne really builds the sense of isolation Rachel feels, having given up her life in the bustling city of London, she is suddenly Lady of the Manor, a huge house in the middle of nowhere, with no friends to speak of and little option to make any, Rachel is struggling with the isolation.
With very few characters in this book, they needed to be well written, and thankfully they are, you really get a sense of how hard it is for both Rachel and widower David, to move on from past tragedies and start their new lives together with David’s 8-year-old son Jamie. Rachel is hoping to take over the renovation of Carnhallow House, started by David’s deceased ex – Nina, whilst David spends the weekdays working in London. There really isn’t anything else for her to do, however, when she starts looking at Nina’s plans, and exploring her new home, Rachel discovers that all is not as it seems with the explanation David gave her about Nina’s death. Jamie, her stepson begins to act strangely, convinced he can see his mother still walking the halls of Carnhallow House, Rachel starts to question both his, and her own, sanity.
Things start to take a sinister turn and, as Rachel begins to question the past, family secrets and past transgressions start coming to light. This is an emotionally charged tale of love, fear, intrigue and dishonesty, wonderfully thrilling and deceptively scary, it is by no means a fast-paced read, there aren’t several stories and plots intertwining and there isn’t much to think about, which I think makes for a really rather unique novel. It feels quite obvious, how the story is going to turn out, but don’t be deceived, once the story picks up pace, there are some shocking twists and unexpected jaw-dropping turns that will leave your heart pounding.
This is definitely a must read and I’d like to thank the publishers and Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.
About the author . . .
S. K. Tremayne is a No. 1 bestselling author, an award-winning travel writer, and a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines around the world. Born in Devon, the author now lives in London. S. K. Tremayne has two daughters.