Book review: Facade by Helen Matthews

Today is Publication Day for Facade. Having been treated to some snippets in a critique group I belong to with the author, my expectations were already high for this one. I ‘d been immediately sucked in by the beautiful old rectory harbouring a dark family secret, and the return of the resentful sister from her self-imposed exile in Spain following her husband’s sudden death, so couldn’t wait to find out how everything would connect and where it would lead.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

This is a fabulous story accurately described as “a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger” with all the ingredients I find irresistible – a beautiful old house full of dark and damaging secrets, sibling rivalry, the far-reaching repercussions of a tragic childhood accident, brooding tension, misunderstandings, festering grudges and explosive revelations.

As you might expect with this set-up, the characters aren’t likeable people – but they make for compelling reading and I was completely immersed in the lives of this complicated family.

On the surface Max and Miriam lead an idyllic life in their very desirable old house but look closely and you’ll see cracks on the surface of their lives as well as their home. The house feels like one of the characters as well as being a metaphor for their lives – it’s become a millstone and a mausoleum so why won’t they let it go?

From the start the reader’s wondering why this couple is so determined to stay in the house where their toddler son drowned, and how much the sisters know about what really happened.

Beautifully written and character-driven, the book has a literary feel. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark family dramas. It deserves to do spectacularly well.

Facade is published by Darkstroke, an imprint of Crooked Cat Books and is available here

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