My first book of the new year was another Christmas present – the dark, psychological thriller A Narrow Door by one of my favourite authors, Joanne Harris (see my blogs on The Strawberry Thief and Peaches and Chocolate).
We are not in France this time, we are in the fictional, Yorkshire, former mining village of Malbry, which sits on top of a mine abandoned after a disaster in which a number of miners drowned and could be heard calling for help from the streets above. It rains a lot, the kind of soft rain that soaks you through, and the landscape is one of old railways tunnels, working men’s pubs and rare trips to the sea at Scarborough.
There are a lot of men who treat women like second-class citizens and a very strong woman is at the book’s heart – Rebecca Buckfast. The book alternates between 1989, when Rebecca is beginning her career as a teacher at King Henry’s Grammar School for Boys, with her young daughter Emily and her controlling boyfriend Dominic, and 2006 when she is Headmistress of St Oswald’s Academy school. The disappearance of her brother Conrad when Rebecca was just five years old hangs over her in both time periods, as she struggles to recover her memory of the day he went missing. When a body turns up at St Oswald’s, Rebecca takes control of the narrative, and it may finally be time for her brother’s secrets to be uncovered.
This is a gripping read and was an enthralling start to the year.