The House of Ashes

Soho Crime Sept. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781616957414. $27.95. THRILLER
Sara and Damien Keane have recently moved from England to the tip of Northern Ireland to remodel an old house. Damien is extremely controlling of Sara, who is recovering from a suicide attempt. When elderly Mary appears at their door, blood-soaked and babbling about it being her house and asking about the children, Sara returns her to the care home and determines to learn her story. Alternating between narration by Sara in the present and Mary 60 years previously, Neville (“DCI Serena Flanagan” series; Ratlines) portrays a house of horror. Ivan and his two sons had kept Mary and two other women locked in the basement to slave over and service the men. Sara learns of their horrific end in old newspaper articles describing murder and suicide; Mary was the only survivor, but no one believed her story. Sara—who faces her husband’s obsessive control, clues to a crime that might have been hidden in their under-construction house, and the Northern Ireland conflict—barely manages to assert herself enough to break free and learn from Mary what really happened in this cursed house.
VERDICT A considerable departure from the author’s well-known police series, this psychological thriller is not for the fainthearted.
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