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The Crooked House


The Crooked House

Thirteen years ago, a child’s worst nightmare: Esme Grace hid in her bedroom, horrified as gunshots boomed downstairs in her house. When she finally dared to venture out, her entire family lay dead, except for her father, who hung onto life by the merest thread, having apparently botched his suicide after killing his wife and children. Esme was supposed to be away, enjoying a sleepover at her friend Gina’s that night, but fate --- or something --- sent her back home in time to witness the massacre.

As soon as she possibly could, Esme left Saltleigh, changed her name and tried desperately to forget. Now her boyfriend, Paul, is going to be best man in a wedding, a wedding in Saltleigh, and he asks her to come along. Esme, calling herself Alison, says absolutely not. But Paul pleads, and she finally decides that maybe it would be best. Maybe she needs to face her demons after all. How else will she get rid of them? Besides, she still has questions.

"Christobel Kent writes with assurance, pulling emotion from her characters and readers alike, and keeping the tension high. She has a rare knack for the eerie."

What Alison doesn’t realize is that, once back in Saltleigh, memories can take on a danger of their own. Plus, while she hopes to remain anonymous, it might not be possible. And while she wants answers, it just may be that the town doesn’t want to give up its secrets.

As she wanders around, searching for clues, Alison haplessly runs into Gina, but tries to pretend she doesn’t know her. Why? Is it just her desire to remain invisible, or does it go deeper than that? She wonders what happened the night of the murders that sent her fleeing Gina’s home. Her memory has huge gaps. Had they fought about something? Someone? To make matters worse, Paul, so devoted to Alison in London, seems distant here in Saltleigh. His duties as best man leave her on her own much of the time. While she thought that might be a good thing (for she’s discovering she doesn’t much like the people in the wedding party), Alison’s homecoming is not going at all as she thought it would.

Sarah Rutherford, the policewoman who had so gently questioned Esme that night all those years before, is still with the Saltleigh police department. It’s probably no surprise, but she doesn’t welcome Alison’s nosing around in the case any more than the rest of the town does. In fact, Rutherford tries to warn her off. Really, what good will opening old wounds do now? The policewoman’s advice? Enjoy the wedding and then return, immediately, to London.

If only it were that easy. Something dark has begun to nag at Alison, something she can’t let go of. After all, she is the one who was there that night. She is the one living with the nightmares, the doubts. What she heard, what she saw, is slowly seeping back into her consciousness. Did the police get it terribly wrong back then? If so, then there’s a murderer still walking the streets of Saltleigh. The little town had better start telling what it knows, or more may die.

THE CROOKED HOUSE is a high-strung thriller set in a small community unwilling to acknowledge a past it doesn’t want to face. Christobel Kent writes with assurance, pulling emotion from her characters and readers alike, and keeping the tension high. She has a rare knack for the eerie.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 15, 2016

The Crooked House
by Christobel Kent