Published by Manilla Press
Hardback February 4th https://www.blackwells.co.uk/?a_aid=babbageandsweetcorn
Many thanks to the publishers for sending me a wonderful proof pack which even including a G&T!
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .
Set around a Santa Monica suburb called Sunnylakes and neighbourhoods of South Central in 1959, the book opens with a short first chapter, containing a somewhat uneasy narrative from one of the main characters, wife and mother Joyce Haney. We are introduced next, to Ruby, a young black woman, who wants to become a teacher and is working as ‘the help’ to a couple of houses within Sunnylakes. She is saving as much as she can for college. Ruby is a wonderful character but as you can imagine experiences a lot of racist remarks and actions from her employers, however, Joyce treats Ruby differently, she treats her like a human being and Ruby has become to regard her more as a friend. Next up is Detective Michael Blanke, recently transferred to the area under a cloud, which we later learn more about. It isn’t long before his and Ruby’s paths cross.
I was hooked to this story right from the very beginning. The setting is marvously portrayed, along with the Californian suburban life of the 1950’s. The racial tensions and social issues of the area make up a signifycant part of the book along with the sexist attitudes of men, both white and black, of these times and young Ruby most definatly gets her share of all of these injustices.
The mystery element of the book was gripping and the two themes ran well along side each other, making the book a rich, complex and highly enjoyable read. Is Joyce still alive? What are the secrets and longings of the other women of Sunnylakes? The characterisations were extremely well crafted and each came to life in their own distinctive way. I particularly liked the ‘friendship’ very slowly forming between the detective and Ruby and loved reading their conversations with each other. Wonderful vocabulary and great characters fit brilliantly in amongst this really absorbing and enjoyable ‘whodunit’. A fantastic debut! Would highly recommend.
Inga Vesper is a journalist and editor. She moved to the UK from Germany to work as a carer, before the urge to write and explore brought her to journalism. As a reporter, she covered the coroner’s court and was able to observe how family, neighbours and police react to a suspicious death. Inga has worked and lived in Syria and Tanzania, but always returned to London, because there’s no better place to find a good story than the top deck of a bus.