Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Book Review: The House Sitter

By Becky Gulc

Every so often I crave a good thriller and I’d heard great things about The House Sitter on Twitter so got hold of a copy. Here is the synopsis:

A scheming traveller

Across Europe, a young woman with no name and no fixed appearance hops from empty villa to vacated apartment to dormant summer house under the guise of house sitter. Her agenda? Steal from the rich, and kill anyone who gets in her way...

A grieving wife

On a stormy night in England, travelling home down narrow country lanes, a fatal car crash leaves Kat's husband Oliver dead. But as Kat begins to mourn his loss, she discovers something that suggests she never knew her husband at all...

A plot to kill

As the people in Oliver's life try to reconcile what they've found with the man they thought they knew, a very different picture begins to emerge. But is it Oliver they shouldn't have trusted, or is someone even closer to home harboring a secret they'd kill to keep hidden...?’ (Synopsis from the book cover.)

The novel starts full-on with Katherine (the ‘grieving wife’) finding out her husband Oliver has died in a car accident in the first chapter. We soon meet Jude, Oliver’s mum to get her reaction and meet his other close family, his dad and his brother.

As we get to know the characters a little and how they respond and cope with the loss of Oliver, the narrative swiftly takes us back in time to 2010, to meet the unnamed ‘scheming traveller’. This is a separate story and was so chilling. ‘Gemma’ as she soon calls herself, at least for the interim, is sick of life in the UK and registers to become a house sitter abroad. Gemma doesn’t have any intention of keeping it to just house sitting though; this is a woman who wants to get rich and will do anything to make that happen. We soon learn she is willing to kill anyone who gets in her way, but every time she does, she has to move on and start again or risk being caught.

The narrative was clever, I was engrossed in each story. With Katherine, her relationship with Oliver is clearly not everything some people thought it was, and as it soon emerges Oliver’s accident may have been down to someone messing with the brakes. As readers, we’re soon very suspicious of everyone. Whilst I wouldn’t say I liked any of the characters related to Oliver, I don’t think I was meant to! They are all self-indulgent and yet it was captivating to read this with a detective hat on and try and figure out who may have been involved. Debbie cleverly makes us suspicious of several people and she kept me guessing!

The best thing about the novel for me was the intrigue about how ‘Gemma’s’ story from a decade ago would be linked with the present story around Oliver, as it inevitably would be somehow. There was no one clear route to guessing this; multiple options were possible right until the very end of the novel! Again Debbie kept the suspense up superbly throughout the novel and there were even more twists than I anticipated in the closing chapters that didn’t disappoint! A great thriller!

More by Debbie Howells:

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