Avon Books advertised this on a book reviewing platform without revealing any detail many months ago. A sucker for both devious marketing plots and psychological thrillers I leapt in and received an electronic copy of the book billed Can You Keep A Secret… and I wasn’t sure if that was a question of we reviewers or the title.
Of course as it wasn’t due to be published until November, by the time I got around to reading it, it now had a name (Cuckoo, though it’s also listed as A Stranger in Our Home in some places – the latter not exactly making sense to me, but whatevs…).
by Sophie Draper
Published by avon books uk
on November 29th 2018
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9780008311292, 9780008311285
When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.
But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.
As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?
It’s probably worth sharing a little more about the plot. At her stepmother’s funeral we learn that Caro and her step-mother Elizabeth were estranged. Caro had left home to study 10 years earlier and not returned since. Adding to the mystery is her older sister Steph, who she hasn’t seen for for 20 years (when Caro was 9 and Steph 16).
Caro never knew exactly what happened between her sister and their stepmother and it saddened her as she felt she and Steph were united against Elizabeth following the death of their father. She’s happy then that Steph, now living in the US, reaches out and wants to rebuild their relationship.
A talented artist, Caro’s life is a bit of a mess so when Steph says she doesn’t want any part of the house the pair inherited Caro heads to Derbyshire to ostensibly pack up her stepmother’s life and decide what to do with the place… thinking the proceeds from its sale could give her the new start she needs.
Unfortunately Caro’s not greeted with any warmth and is a bit of a pariah on her arrival in the nearby village. Her only ally is a man who’s been renting a cottage from Elizabeth and Caro’s immediately attracted to Craig, despite having come out of an abusive and unhappy relationship.
However… no sooner has Caro moved home when she starts to have flashbacks and is besieged by memories of the way her stepmother taunted her and of course the house doesn’t help, with only bleak memories on offer. Added into the mix is Caro’s dream commission – illustrating a book of dark fairytales – one of which is a threatening and menacing tale relayed to her by her stepmother.
The story took a while to get going but I actually didn’t see some of the twists of this book coming. I had absolutely no idea. Things didn’t add up obviously so we’re not quite sure what’s happening but I was quite shocked when things take a turn. I had been worried we were heading into some gothic tale of sorts with ghosts and spirits (stuff that goes thump in the night), but it was nothing like that.
I was probably a bit disappointed in the ending but more in that sense of foreboding – which I think many will like.
So I really enjoyed this book which centres around secrets and lies. The weakest element (other than the slow start) was probably the character development as I didn’t engage with Caro as much as I should have. She’s meant to be a bit confused and troubled (cuckoo or crazy as someone in the village puts it) and it’s good to understand why, but I still wanted to slap her around the head on a few occasions. The book gets bonus points for its twist/s though as they’re better than most.
Cuckoo by Sophie Draper will be published by Avon Books UK on 29 November 2019.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.