Fiction – paperback; Headline; 340 pages; 2005.
Rosa Thorn, a trained actress, loses her artist husband in a tragic accident and now finds herself alone, raising two temperamental and grief-stricken teenagers with problems of their own. Forced to go back to work as a drama teacher, Rosa is immersed in the strange and slightly menacing world of Churchill Towers Comprehensive. The undertones of unease come erupting to the surface when a pupil is found murdered in a nearby park. From there on in the tension never lets up.
As the police begin their murder investigation, Rosa tries to convince them that their number one suspect should be Squirrel Man, a homeless Irishman in his early thirties who has befriended her daughter. But the police fail to share her concern and do little, if anything, to control the Squirrel Man who has taken to hanging outside the front of Rosa’s house, staring into her front windows.
Later, when she rents her spare bedroom to a police detective, matters don’t necessarily get better: a bloodied one-eyed cat is left on her doorstep, her daughter’s pet cemetery is desecrated and then another pupil’s murdered body is found …
All in all, Vena Cork’s debut novel is a menacing and deeply addictive read, with enough twists and turns to keep even the most cryptic reader intrigued. I found myself reading this book at any opportunity, desperate to reach the ending to find out who-dun-it. And believe me the surprise ending was an unexpected, and deeply satisfying, shocker.