Tommie Ware’s life is turned upside down the summer of 1958, just after his eleventh birthday. When his beloved aunt—the woman who raised him—doesn’t return after her shift as a night nurse and is later found murdered, there is only one place left for Tommie to go: “home” to the mother who handed him over the day he was born.
All is not as it seems behind the hedgerow surrounding the lavish Henneberry estate where Tommie’s mother, Esther, works as live-in housekeeper. Her employers have agreed he can stay until she “sorts things out,” but as she's at the family’s beck and call around the clock, Tommie is mostly left on his own to navigate the grounds, the massive house, and the twisted family inside.
Soon he is enmeshed in the oppressive attentions of matriarch Muriel, who is often heavily medicated, and of fifteen-year-old, Martin, who treats Tommie sometimes like a kid brother, sometimes like a pawn in a confusing game. While Dr. Henneberry mostly ignores Tommie, he also seems eager for him to be gone. Then there’s the elderly neighbour, who may know more about the family's past than anyone else will say.
By summer's end, the secrets and games tighten around Tommie and his mother, until a horrific crime is discovered and we are faced with an unthinkable question: could an eleven-year-old boy really have committed cold-blooded murder?
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 12th 2022
by Penguin Random House Canada
I knew going into this book that it would be a heart gripping read. Just by looking at the blurb it is hard to imagine an 11-year-old boy driven to commit cold blooded murder.
Taking place in 1958, 11-year-old Tommie has his world ripped apart by the sudden and tragic death of his aunt Celia. Celia has raised him from birth and though Tommy has visits with his mother Celia is the one he has bonded with. This book has a unique format in that it was told through the points of view of Tommie, various newspaper articles, radio tidbits and court transcripts. Making it a better fit for reading versus listening to the audiobook.
This was a slow burn story with lots of red herrings. It was mysterious and it was a story about bullying, family and the lives of those who feel they are better than others. There were twists and turns that I didn’t always see coming.
This is my first time reading this author, who is Canadian and lives in Toronto. I will be on the lookout for more of her books. My thanks to TheBakingBookworm for raving about this book and putting it on my radar.
This book was part of my 2022 reading off my shelf challenge.