Snap decisions can be dangerous.

We never meet Eileen Bright. Instead, we begin with a hot, airless car and her three small children: Jack, Joy and Merry. They fuss and bicker exactly as you would expect, but underneath their casual cruelties there is a deep fog of unease: their mother went to get help, but that was over an hour ago now.

Jack is eleven. Jack was left “in charge”, so he tries. He tries to entertain and reassure his small sisters, and when his mother still doesn’t return he tries to take practical steps to find her.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of their house, and – suddenly – of finding out what happened to his mother.

What’s it about?

A fierce, frightened boy doing what he can to hold his family together.

A family destroyed by loss and grief and mistakes.

Goldilocks. A cat burglar who hates happy families.

The possibility of healing offered by closure and family.

What’s it like?

Wonderful. Humorous. Full of heart.

Bauer simultaneously grips your heart and your head with a cast of characters you can’t help but care for and a crime you need to see solved.

Eileen’s almost complete absence from the novel accentuates her loss and her children’s need to a degree that makes their subsequent moods and attitudes completely understandable, and I loved the way the story gradually came together.

Expect a dose of police procedural, a scattering of thievery and many wry smiles.

Final thoughts

I absolutely loved this book.

There were a few details I thought could have been filled in more, and I think there’s a gap in the timeline, but the pacing, the characterisation and the careful unravelling of the drama is exquisite.

I remember loving Bauer’s debut novel, ‘Blacklands’ and, after receiving this confirmation of her mastery of the crime genre, I will definitely be seeking out the books she’s written in between.


Belinda Bauer,
2018, Transworld, hardback