Reviewed by Louise Wykes
Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape...
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44- year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old m an she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough...
This perfect, bite sized novel is a great example of how novels don’t have to be big tomes to be terrifying and that in fiction, sometimes, less is most definitely more.
The action starts with Allis Hagtorn entering the house of Sigurd Bagge who supposedly needs nursing, though at first there is little actual evidence that he requires care, whilst his wife is on an expedition somewhere. From the first page, the book succinctly describes the isolation of both the house and the man and how Allis (who is running away from her own set of mysterious circumstances) is immediately attracted to the apparent safety that such isolation offers her.
However, it is not long before Allis starts to feel the isolation and strange behaviour of Bagge very unsettling and she begins to slowly reveal to the reader more of her own background as she desperately tries to find out more about the mysterious man she has been employed by.
The tension in this book builds perfectly and even the lack of speech marks used makes the reader pause and read again to try and make sense about what is going on. The ending is exactly pitched to make the reader question what has actually happened and my mind is still trying to work out the unanswered questions and that sense of unease is a perfect reflection of this darkly, delicious tale of obsession and mistakes.
If you are after an unsettling and yet fascinating read, I can highly recommend this darkly, delicious tale and I am eager to read more of the author’s work.