Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th July 2020 from Hodder & Stoughton
Ailsa Tilson moves with her husband and children to Trinity Fields in search of the new.
New project – a house to renovate. New people – no links to the past. New friends – especially her next-door neighbour, the lonely Verity, who needs her help.
Verity has lived in Trinity Fields all her life. She’s always resisted change. Her home and belongings are a shield, a defence to keep the outside world at bay. But something about the Tilsons piques her interest.
Just as her ivy creeps through the shared garden fence, so Verity will work her way into the Tilson family.
And once they realise how formidable she can be, it might well be too late.
I adore Sabine Durrant’s sharp and precise prose. She is so good at burrowing into a character’s head and giving you glimpses of their innermost thoughts, without necessarily revealing everything, that the reader ends up tantalised and wanting to know more. Durrant’s characters drive her books and reward you every step of the way. You know that in Finders Keepers, both Verity Ann Baxter and her new neighbour, Ailsa Tilson are not telling you everything – indeed you suspect that one if not both are the epitome of unreliable, but the plotting is so good that these characters engage, then chill and bring you into their world when you realise that the slow burn that you have been experiencing was a call to wake up and smell the coffee…and now it’s too late.
Verity Ann Baxter is an OED lexicographer, working from home. She has lived all her life in her now rather run- down house in Trinity Fields, South London. She and her sister lived there until her sister Faith moved out and left Verity to care for their mother until the end. Now it’s just Verity and her dog, Maudie.
Tom and Ailsa Tilson move in next door and Verity immediately takes a dislike to the rather overbearing Tom and his demands that she clean up her hedges. Ailsa, his wife, though is more intriguing to Verity. A bit on the scatty side, forever apologising, finding her three kids a bit off a handful and she seems to Verity to be ground down by life and the demands of her husband.
Ailsa is everything that Verity is not. The contrast between the two women could not be greater, yet they bond over Max, one of Ailsa’s twins whom Verity is able to tutor and whom she grows fond of, seeing the uncertain young man as the antithesis of his father.
Verity and Ailsa strike up an unlikely friendship that benefits them both, but neither is willing to let the other in too far. Then one day something terrible occurs and the suppressed secrets start to spill out with devastating results.
I loved all the contrasts that Durrant has built into this book. The sleek modernism of the Tilson’s new house compared to the smelly, run down house that Verity lives in. The second hand clothes compared to Ailsa’s floaty designer numbers and the Tilsons’ immaculate garden next to Verity’s junk strewn lawns.
There’s a poison in the air that hangs over this relationship and you know that inside there are suppurating wounds that are festering and that the pus is rising slowly to the surface. What you’re not quite sure of is what wounds lie behind it and it is the creation of that dark story that makes Sabine Durrant the superb storyteller that she is.
Utilising a dual time line, she builds a picture that flits from their first meeting back to the present day, revealing how the relationship developed as contemporary events are unfolding.
Verdict: Dark, delicious and really rather chilling, Sabine Durrant has created a modern gothic novel. Suspenseful and surprising, this is a psychological thriller not to be missed.
Sabine Durrant is the author of four psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way, Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller, and Take Me In. Her previous novels are
Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. 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.