Grace, Meg and Daphne, all in their seventies, are sitting quietly in a coffee shop planning a murder. They want to save young Nina from The Toad because they have taken her into their hearts. They discuss and hatch a daring plot which all three seem remarkably ill suited for but as the book points out so cleverly, appearances can be so deceptive. The story is told from the perspectives of all four women.
I loved ‘Stranger she knew’ by the author so began to read this one with high expectations which are so not disappointed, in fact, I think this book is even better! The plot certainly has a very dark side to it and the narrative makes these points of shock and horror clear but without ever being unnecessarily graphic. You know what’s going on, you don’t need it spelling out but you hate the lack of humanity.
The book is very well written, it has a darkly humorous vibe which works so well alongside the black themes. The characterisation is superb. Grace gets right to the heart of a situation and is clear-minded, Meg is ‘said’ by her late husband Henry to be a ditherer, inept and incompetent but for me, she’s more than rather wonderful. She may give off a ‘dumpy grandma vibe’ but she’s astute, caring and much braver than the odious Henry ever gave her credit for. Daphne is also wonderful and like all the women she carries a weighty ton of baggage. Their backstories emerge as we progress through and all their stories are sad. The three older women compliment each other, before Nina they knew each other vaguely through Pilates (strengthen those cores, dear hearts!) but their growing camaraderie and friendship aligned through Nina is heartwarming. They become like the Three Musketeers, ‘All for Nina and Nina for all’. Nina’s life story is sad but she’s an amazingly resilient young woman. I love that all four main characters are on the perceived periphery of society. The older ones are part of the invisible brigade written off because of beige, age, wrinkles or race that marginalises and pushes to the edge. I like it that more authors are making those at the upper end of the age spectrum central to the storytelling- let’s break the mould! The book shines a light on those issues but also the power and beauty of friendship which leads to lighter or cast off burdens.
There’s so much in the book you could mention, it has every element a good thriller should have and more. I loved it from start to finish. It’s compelling, wonderful, heartwarming, heart-stopping, brave, funny and a simply great read with some fantastic characters to brighten your day.
With thanks to NetGalley and especially to HQ for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.