I first discovered Ruth Dugdall’s books on the recommendation of a friend. The author’s previous employment as a social worker and probation officer clearly informed her book, ‘Humber Boy B’, which was the first of hers I read. It was so good, I quickly worked my way through her others – the award-winning ‘The Woman Before Me’, ‘Nowhere Girl’, ‘My Sister and Other Liars’. All psychological thrillers, they are informed by Dugdall’s past work experience and pose moral questions about the criminal justice system.
Her latest has more of a supernatural feel. The story begins on a cold morning in rural Suffolk. Holly is a paramedic, called to the scene of an attempted suicide at the creepily-named Innocence Farm. A woman called Maya has apparently shot herself but is still breathing. The shotgun is lying nearby. Surveying the scene, Holly is transported back in time to a childhood memory she’s tried to repress, of a Halloween night twenty years earlier when she and her brother Jamie went ghost hunting.
The injured woman’s daughter, Cass, insists that her mother wasn’t depressed and had no reason to try to kill herself. The doctors think otherwise. But Holly has her own reasons for thinking Cass might be on to something. Though they were never friends, she remembers Cass from her school days – posh, beautiful and aloof, the girl who lived in the haunted house. And something about the crime scene isn’t quite right. Together, the two women work to uncover the truth about what happened that night – and as they do, both are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths.
As every horror film fan knows, often it’s the things you don’t see that unsettle you the most. This is a spine-tingling, slow burn of a book by a writer who knows when to hold back and when to deliver the thrills that set your nerves jangling. See for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.