In 1933 Cornwall, Alice Edevane is 16. She loves her life in the woods and gardens of the family estate, Loeanneth, and she spends her time writing stories of romance and mystery. She reads her stories to Ben Munro, an itinerant gardener whom she loves. Her newest one is about a kidnapping, set in her own home.
In 2003, Sadie Sparrow is a police officer on an enforced holiday. She got over-involved in a case, in her partner’s opinion, and went to the media when she thought it was mishandled. Her partner is trying to keep her name out of the subsequent investigation, but he wants her on vacation for a month.
Sadie chooses to visit her grandfather Bertie in Cornwall, where he recently moved after her grandmother’s death. In traipsing around the woods with the dogs, she comes upon the abandoned house at Loeanneth. When she tries to find out about the house, she learns that it was deserted after the disappearance of a little boy, Theo Edevane, who was never found.
Sadie decides she would like to look into the cold case with the help of retired officer Clive Robinson. She tracks down Alice Edevane, now a famous novelist, and writes asking for permission to enter the house. But she hears nothing back.
Alice has always believed she knew what happened to Theo and thinks it is her fault. She has no desire to reopen the investigation, however unofficial. But a frank conversation with her sister Deborah reveals something she didn’t know, which leads her to re-evaluate her belief in what happened long ago. When the persistent Sadie writes again, she agrees to see her.
The story alternates between the investigation in the present and the events leading up to Theo’s disappearance. We see the past events from the points of view of several different characters but mostly from that of Eleanor, Alice’s mother.
I absolutely loved this novel, with one caveat. It is intricately plotted and beautifully written, as are Morton’s other novels. I also found it completely absorbing.
However, the coincidence of what happened to Theo I found a bit much. I can’t explain more, but read it yourself and tell me what you think.