Cuckoo by Julia Crouch

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Star Rating: ***

Pages: 435

First published by Headline Publishing Group in 2011

Rose finally has everything she dreamt of. Two beautiful children, a loving husband and a large idyllic home in the middle of the English countryside which they themselves brought back to life using their own creative talents. Life was not always easy for Rose but since losing her parents and inheriting some money things seem to be heading in the right direction; life has finally found the right track – so what could possibly go wrong?

Why is it when everything seems to be going so well there is always a stumbling block; something that comes along and hits you head on, often without you even realising it?

Rose’s stumbling block comes in the form of her best friend Polly, the person she has known since primary school; the individual that knows her better than anyone else, knows her darkest secrets and her most painful memories.

Calling late one evening from Greece, Polly shares the heart-breaking news that her husband, Christos, has been in an accident and sadly passed away. Unable to cope with the accusations and prying eyes of her Greek in-laws she seeks compassion from the one person she knows will offer to help in any way she can. Before she knows what she has done, Rose has offered sanctuary to both Polly and her children, stating that they can stay with them for as long as they need to, much to the disgust of her husband Gareth.

From the reader’s perspective it quickly becomes evident that there is more than just simple dislike for Polly on Gareth’s behalf and with intrigue gained you find yourself consuming chapters at a rapid rate to try and understand the underlying reason for this hatred.

As soon as Polly’s plane descends into English airspace disaster is on the cards – it is just a matter of time. After severe delays they narrowly avoid an accident on the motorway and arrive home rather later than planned with four irritable children in the backseats. However, after setting them up in the annexe and serving food Rose feels like she can finally relax and start to enjoy having her best friend back in the country.

In the first few weeks it is evident that Polly is unable to cope. As a musician with a history of dramatic tendencies and a former drug addict, Rose is loathed to push her too quickly. She takes over the day-to-day care of Nico and Yannis, Polly’s sons, moving them into the main house in order to give Polly further time alone to come to terms with her tragic lost.

Becoming more of a recluse with the passing of each day Rose’s concern grows. Even when present at a family meal Polly is distant and appears more self-loathing than usual. Then the accidents start to happen. Firstly, Flossie, Rose’s youngest daughter, is taken seriously ill and rushed into hospital. Then, on what should have been a relaxing day trip, Rose is rescued after nearly drowning. Could these two incidents really just be accidents?

Suspicions start to bubble during her recovery when Polly moves into the main house to look after her. What should take a few days of rest seem to take far longer – why? And why is Gareth suddenly being so distant?

With her mind full of ‘what-if’ scenarios Rose knows she needs to find out what is going on in her own home and even though she is weak decides to investigate – but will she like what she finds?

The darkness that once shrouded Rose’s life seems to have descended once again. Her once picture-perfect family has fallen into disarray and the only changing factor is her best friend. What has she done to change the harmony of her family so drastically in such a short amount of time?

Rose has a dark secret from her past that she is frightened has been revealed; is it possible that the one person she trusted has finally deceived her resulting in the change in her family circumstances? Why does her husband suddenly appear so distracted? Will she ever be able to restore the statue-quo?

When you pick up this novel from the crime section of a bookshop and you begin reading it, you could easily assume that there will be some hideous murder unravelled that bond these women together – if that is what you are expecting you will be disappointed. It is a novel shrouded in mystery and disaster but with a twist; it is most definitely not your normal crime novel.

Julia Crouch has written a fast-paced novel that you will be unable to put down but may leave you a little deflated at the end – creating tension throughout is a skill she has succeeded in achieving but the end was an abrupt disappointment.

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