game family

Avaialble now from Hodder & Stoughton

Source: Bookbridgr

Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…

After fleeing London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine Merrison plans to spend her days doing as little as possible. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to seem strangely withdrawn. Checking Ellen’s homework one day, Justine finds herself reading a chillingly articulate story about a series of sinister murders committed at the family’s new house. Can Ellen really have made all this up, as she claims? Why would she invent something so grotesque, set it in her own home and name one of the characters after herself? When Justine discovers that Ellen has probably also invented her best friend at school, who appears not to be known to any of the teachers, Justine’s alarm turns to panic.

Then the anonymous phone calls start: a stranger, making accusations and threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big ones and a smaller one for a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety. If the police can’t help, she’ll have to confront the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be…

This one was a real head-scratcher for the majority of the story…

Right from the start our protagonist Justine starts experiencing things that could be considered really quite supernatural. On the way to their new home, Justine passes a nondescript and unimpressive house, yet feels an inexplicable and overwhelming psychic sense that she will someday be safe and happy there.

Then there is the ‘story’ being written by her teenage daughter, Ellen – a project for school apparently, about a disturbingly dysfunctional family and some very unsettling murders, all set in the very house that Justine and her family are starting their new life in.

Then come the creepy phone calls. Somebody knows Justine and they want her out, and Justine has no idea who they are or how they know her…

I was a bit disheartened in the beginning, because I wasn’t really looking for a supernatural read at the time, and couldn’t really be bothered with another haunted house story. Luckily I was given some hope when Justine’s husband mocked her about the supernatural – well it’s only ever when nobody acknowledges these things that they occur, so I figured there must be more to it…

It seemed like forever that I had no bloody idea what on Earth was going on! All events were strange and mysterious, everybody seemed shifty, and I think I questioned Justine’s sanity at least twice as much as she did herself. Usually in these kind of mysteries, I spend my time trying to work out who is behind it all – this was made a hell of a lot harder when I couldn’t work out what “it all” was, let alone who was behind it! It certainly made for a page-turner; I was desperate to discover where this was all headed.

And then there was the big reveal; or more accurately, the slow, deflating, disappointing reveal. I hadn’t liked or related to a single character, and couldnt fathom the reasoning behind some of Justine’s deductions or actions; and so the only thing keeping me going was the promising discovery as to why all of these bizarre things were happening. Cue gaping plot-holes, dismissive mental health ‘explain-aways’, and a ridiculous plot-twist involving a dog! I felt cheated.

In fairness, I do think that Ellen’s ‘story’ is worthy of a mention as a saving grace for me; you get to read snippets of it as Justine does, and I have to say I did find her blunt style of storytelling very funny and endearing – despite the disturbing content. Sometimes you may find yourself just wanting to carry on reading that and leave Justine to get on with her crazy dramas alone!

Overall this was a real page-turner; a mystifying psychological suspense that will send you crazy with confusion and delight; unfortunately I didn’t feel rewarded for sticking with it and would have given a far better review had I left the story halfway through.

*My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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