The set-up: Switching between the 1950’s and present day, Laura Powell’s debut tells the story of Betty Broadbent, a teenage girl helping her (unstable) mother run their seaside hotel. The novel opens with the hotel packed with reporters, there to cover ‘The Cornish Cleaver’, the town’s first serial killer. A relationship forms between Betty and one of the journalists, Mr Gallagher, but her feelings for him are complicated by his erratic behaviour. As the body count rises, Betty finds herself trusting fewer and fewer of those around her…
The review: An excellent debut, and a very well-told story. Generally, I find novels which switch between different time periods to lose momentum each time they switch. However, the later time period is intriguing enough and raises enough questions to warrant the split. The serial killer plot is important and provides lovely twists but, fortunately, takes a backseat to the family and relationship drama which is where the real emotion of the text lies. Powell ramps up the tension the longer the book goes on and the ending packs a real punch.
The verdict: Recommended.