“Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.
As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe. Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?
Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?”
This book scared the hell out of me. Claire is one of those teachers with a heart of gold, who thinks kids should be kids. She takes a shine to little Lorna Bell and decides to take her under her wing. Claire thinks Lorna is just misunderstood. From a working class family who live on a deprived housing estate, Lorna has not had the best start at life, and Claire is determined to turn things around for her. No one listens to Claire’s genuine concerns for Lorna’s safety. All the signs point to Lorna being abused so when she goes to Claire for help Claire takes matters into her own hands and makes a few decisions she will live to regret.
There is a dark, creepy undercurrent that runs through this whole book. It’s a bit of a slow burner rather than a psychological thriller, but the more you read the greater that feeling of unease grows inside you. The first half of the book slowly builds a picture around Claire and her life. This gives the reader a deeper understanding of why Claire makes the questionable decisions later in the book. You can’t agree with what she does, but you can empathise and understand why. The second half of the book sees Claire’s life spin out of control. Watching her decline is like putting a fork in a microwave and being unable to stop watching as the sparks fly before completely exploding. You know it’s coming, you know it’s going to be bad, but you just can’t take your eyes off it.
The characterisation is superb. I took an instant dislike to Lorna’s Mum and Step-Dad, I judged them on their outward appearances which is something I normally never do. I couldn’t help but warm to Claire, and when a third main character, Marianne, came on the scene halfway through the book I was instantly suspicious. She reminded me too much of someone I once knew!
This twisted tale is a masterclass in manipulation, and you do wonder at times who the more superior manipulator really is. The events in this book seem so far-fetched yet at the same time so believable, which is what really chilled me to the bone. I’ve been waiting a while for an author with a book as brave as this one. Some people are just born bad, and these monsters are all around us, hidden in plain sight.
My overall is rating for this book is 4.5 stars. Thanks to Frances Vick, Bookouture and NetGalley.