THE HOUSE SWAP by Rebecca Fleet (Doubleday €15.65)
THIS story of an obsessive love affair isn’t quite as gripping as Apple Tree Yard — but it comes close. Thirtysomething Caroline leaves her toddler son with her mother and swaps her house in Leeds for a flat in Chiswick, London, for a week’s holiday, in a bid to mend her marriage.
She then discovers that the person she has swapped with somehow knows the secrets of a tumultuous affair Caroline had two years ago. The swapper sets about creepily destroying particular items in Caroline’s house and sends her menacing clues.
The story is told in three voices: her husband Francis, the mysterious swapper and Caroline. But it is the latter, as the conflicted mother and lover, that is the most compelling. In this debut, Fleet shows skill in timing the gradual reveal of Caroline’s past. But her real talent is the ability to transmit the sheer exhilaration and naked danger of obsessive love.
CROSS HER HEART by Sarah Pinborough (HarperCollins €15.65)
THIS is a busy book. At its heart, there is a parable about female friendship and the corrosive power of secrets.
It is a thriller about two women with such secrets. Lisa’s is bigger than her friend Marilyn’s. As the overprotective mother of a teenage daughter, she reluctantly becomes friends with Marilyn, whose outwardly charming husband is abusing her in private.
The women grow close. But when Lisa’s former alcoholic husband tracks her down, the secrets begin to spill in a sort of actionpacked adventure thriller that threatens lives and tests the friendship of both women.
Fans of Pinborough’s hugely successful Behind Her Eyes may forgive the busyness; new readers might find it exhausting.
WHAT WE DID by Christobel Kent (Sphere €15.65)
BRIDGET, a small boutique owner, loses control of her carefully constructed new life when the music teacher who abused her as a student suddenly turns up in her shop, accompanied by a young girl whom Bridget knows will be in danger.
The teacher, Anthony Carmichael, is determined to frighten her into silence. Her decision to stop Carmichael will force Bridget to confront her own, deliberately hidden memories and end in dramatic consequences for her, her son and her husband.
The plot is overcooked in parts, but the writing is underpinned by intelligent understanding of the complicated legacy of childhood abuse.
Kent asks us difficult questions about the true nature of forgiveness and retribution in a fast-paced and moving story.