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The house of ashes
2021
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Library Journal Review
Sara and Damien Keane have recently moved from England to the tip of Northern Ireland to remodel an old house. Damien is extremely controlling of Sara, who is recovering from a suicide attempt. When elderly Mary appears at their door, blood-soaked and babbling about it being her house and asking about the children, Sara returns her to the care home and determines to learn her story. Alternating between narration by Sara in the present and Mary 60 years previously, Neville ("DCI Serena Flanagan" series; Ratlines) portrays a house of horror. Ivan and his two sons had kept Mary and two other women locked in the basement to slave over and service the men. Sara learns of their horrific end in old newspaper articles describing murder and suicide; Mary was the only survivor, but no one believed her story. Sara--who faces her husband's obsessive control, clues to a crime that might have been hidden in their under-construction house, and the Northern Ireland conflict--barely manages to assert herself enough to break free and learn from Mary what really happened in this cursed house. VERDICT A considerable departure from the author's well-known police series, this psychological thriller is not for the fainthearted.--Roland Person, formerly at Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Publishers Weekly Review
This gut-wrenching novel of psychological suspense with ghostly undertones from Edgar finalist Neville (Ratlines) opens early one morning with social worker Sara Keane scrubbing off the blood stains she often sees on the kitchen floor of the Ashes, the 120-year-old house her father-in-law bought for her and her angry architect husband, Damien, in Belfast, where the couple moved after "things went bad" in England. Damien, who's not yet up, believes Sara is imagining the blood stains. Then Sara hears someone hammering on the front door. Outside is Mary Jackson, a disheveled old woman, who says the Ashes is her house and rants about missing children. Damien appears, recognizes Mary, and ushers her out of the house to take her back to the "care home." Sara and Mary later develop a friendship tempered by shared emotional anguish. Alternating story lines show how Sara's present-day woes intersect with Mary's traumatic past and shed light on how women called Mummies and men called Daddies mistreated children in the house. This unforgettable tale of servitude and subservience, domestic abuse, and toxic masculinity builds to a resolution offering redemption and heartfelt solace. Neville has outdone himself. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Assoc. (Sept.)
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