Publication: 28 June 2018 from Mulholland Books
A hot beach. A young family on holiday. A fatal moment of inattention…
And now Dave Jepsom is in their lives.
Dave Jepsom, with his muscles, his pale eyes, his expressionless face.
He saved their child. How can they ever repay him? Especially as what he seems to want in return is everything.
He’s in the streets they walk down. He’s at the office where they work. He’s at their front door, leaning on the bell…
If only they could go back. Back to when the lies were still hidden. Before the holiday, before the beach, before the moment that changed everything.
But it’s never how it starts that matters. It’s always how it ends.
I’m a sucker for Sabine Durrant’s novels and Take Me In is no exception. Durrant’s prose is, as ever, on point and incisive.
Tessa and Marcus are that couple you know. The ones who buy their shopping in Waitrose, sneer gently at the lower classes, live in South West London and are so absorbed in their own lives that they have neglected to tend to their marriage or their three year old son, Josh.
On holiday in Greece Tessa and Mark display the same reckless disregard for each other and in a heart stopping moment of neglect, Josh almost drowns. Fortunately he is rescued the nick of time by Dave Jepsom, a working class builder from Essex who manages at once to make Mark feel less of a man and less of a winner as he stumbled and failed to save his own son.
Durrant’s eye for detail and atmospherically laden descriptions are everything we need to understand the utter horror of this scene. Both Tessa and Marcus are devastated at their failure to be attentive. Tessa feels hugely guilty and simultaneously resentful that Marcus failed to Josh wandering into the sea.
At once we have a compelling scene where the depths and variety of emotions are laid out in front of us. We can see selfishness, terror, self-doubt, guilt and shame. We judge Tessa and Marcus just as much as they judge others.
And judge they do. Grateful to Jepsom for rescuing Josh, it was always clear to them that he was not someone they would naturally spend time with. So they reluctantly offer to buy him lunch as a thank you and then get away as fast as they can. But maybe Jepsom doesn’t want to quietly disappear from their lives?
Tessa’s guilt at her own reasons for inattention plays into anger with Marcus and the fault lines in their marriage start to turn into ever wider cracks. Their holiday is not a success and Tessa and Marcus turn away from each other. Then once they have got home, Jepsom turns up at their house with a gift for Josh. What does he want?
The cracks in the marriage are exacerbated by both Tessa and Marcus forever seeing Jepsom at every turn once they have got home. As their lives falter and things really start to go awry, they start to become obsessed with the idea that Jepsom is behind all their problems.
Although his appearances have perfectly rational explanations, they feel more and more under threat and a pall of gloom is cast over their lives.
Told in a dual narrative by Marcus and Tessa we quickly come to realise the flaws and frailties of these two unreliable narrators, neither of whom is especially likeable and to witness the slow unravelling of their claustrophobic, smug, self-satisfied lives.
In an atmosphere that is tense, menacing and nerve tingling, the secrets, lies and obsessions of this shallow couple will ultimately be laid bare for the reader and when the explosive conclusion comes, it is both surprising and impactful.
Verdict: A tense and razor sharp psychological thriller that will keep you guessing.
About Sabine Durrant
Sabine Durrant is the author of three previous psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way and Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller.
She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times, and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.
Follow Sabine on Twitter @SabineDurrant