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By Lucy Atkins

With an intriguing premise and disturbing setting reminiscent of Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, Magpie Lane promises tension and suspense . The story revolves around the disappearance of the Master of Oxford College's eight-year-old, selectively mute daughter Felicity, who goes missing from the College residence.

I enjoyed the way the plot was revealed; it's recounted as a police interview of Felicity's nanny, Dee, three days after the incident. Written in first person narrative, you are immediately thrust into the heart of Dee’s unique personality as she gently reveals her backstory—it's an effective method. I have to admit that I never really warmed to Dee, and as for Felicity’s parents – father, Nick, and stepmother, Mariah, both were beautifully dislikeable (or pretty horrid, if that’s a clearer description). However, as a psychological thriller/mystery, it proves that the cast of dysfunctional and insular characters are well crafted and completely believable. While the story is dark and creepy, on another level, the contradiction between sensitivity and awkwardness in the characters’ relationships keep it from becoming morbid or unbelievable, and sustains the anticipation.

"There's a stranger in your house, and you let her in..."

At times, I had to re-read sections due to the editing; I found the lack of inverted commas and dialogue cues off putting. The background to the incident and events leading up to it dragged on and the first half was quite slow. But the pace picked up with the introduction of the eccentric house detective, Linklater, who delivered the much-awaited gothic touch. There were times when his storytelling of Oxford’s interesting past was extraneous, but the narrative is beautifully written and flows easily. Overall it is Linklater's character that adds another layer to the plot and brings the mystery to a head.

The tension did escalate, but I thought the denouement disappointing and was not the surprise I had hoped for. I haven’t read Lucy Atkins’s work before but that wouldn’t stop me from reading another.Her writing is beautiful. A little more detail concerning the house’s haunted history, with focus on the ghosts and past residents, might enhance the dark mood and tone of the story and the suspense.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

xx Chrissie

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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