'How had it come to this, I thought. What do I do now?'
Maura Wood is looking back, something has triggered a memory. A photograph in a newspaper. It's of Kim Carter. For a short time they were best friends. Except Kim is dead and Maura 'ran away and became another person.' It was five years ago when Kim died, and Maura has a new identity, and has moved to live and work in South London and try to escape the past.
Taking us back to five years ago, we drop in on Maura's life then. She lived in Dowerby, a market town in northern England, having moved there with her husband Nick and their young daughter Rosie. From the way Maura describes Dowerby, with its castle and tourist attractions, and the locals who aren't keen on newcomers, it's clear she isn't overly enamoured with the place, to put it mildly, a view that subsequently turned to hatred:
'Does it seem crazy to feel hatred for a place? Or do you really just hate what happened there? I think I really hate Dowerby, as much as if it was a person. For its smallness, its unwelcoming feeling, its inability to change. I'm grateful to London, though, for allowing me and those like me, to blend into its people-wallpaper, totally unseen.'
Five years ago, preparations were in motion for the annual Dowerby Fair, and Nick is a key organiser of the events, seeking more publicity for the fair to attract higher visitor numbers. Kim Carter arrives in the town to work as the new district reporter for the regional evening paper. Maura gets to know her, and is friendly towards her unlike many of the locals. Kim is talented and confident, and she becomes like a sister/best friend that Maura has never had before; up until Kim arrives, she made do with her husband and child's company, with no real friends. A firm bond grows between them. Maura laughs and relaxes in Kim's company, and finds a new side to herself, a side she can't express at home. Her behaviour changes through her friendship with Kim. She even starts working with her, gaining more independence, though she is fearful that Nick won't approve of this. He is often unkind and critical in the way he speaks to her, and as the story moves on, we realise that his cruel, controlling and abusive treatment of Maura is not limited to words. I liked a lot of things about Maura, I was glad she had this new friendship and the work that boosted her self-esteem, but I felt saddened at how she was still with Nick after some of his actions had been described; a couple of times I willed her to act differently.
I found this a tense, compelling, well-paced and nicely structured story, and I would definitely read more from this author in the future.
Published by Legend Press