The author gives her readers a fascinating puzzle within an even more complex puzzle—quite possibly within another hidden puzzle—and so on. This “psychological thriller” is a brilliant example of using an opaque narrative surface to slowly reveal deeper and deeper narrative levels in just the intense way a psychological mystery novel should be. Yet better than many other examples of the genre.
The central characters are two sisters who have an ambivalent and tense relationship at the same time as their same-age daughters are close.
Within the first two chapters of the novel, the village police unit are obliged to detain these ten year-old daughters on suspicion of beating an older family friend and neighbor. Moreover, the woman they are suspected of attacking has died of her injuries. Neither girl will speak about what they did or did not do when they were at the now dead older woman’s house or about anything else.
Their mothers, long pitted against each other by their own formerly beautiful and consistently manipulative mother, are caught within a a tacit and strangling family set of unconscious rules.
The family web has extended to the husband of the younger sister as well as to their children and to that same sister’s best friend.
The father of the two sisters, grandfather of their daughters, has always taken the role of powerful enabler to his all-powerful and destructive emotionally damaged wife.
The older sister, who is divorced, has been used to aid in the family project of placing all guilt, small and large, on the younger one.
As the detective in charge of interviewing the young girls resists a too quick judgment, and as the well-known family therapist starts to pick apart the family history of secrets and lies involving the young girls’ mothers and grandparents, we add the sisters’ younger brother, who died young, as another family member and piece of the puzzles within puzzles.
While the young girls, suspected of being heinous young killers, aren’t talking, their parents’ lives are coming apart. Soon their grandparents lives are about to be torn apart.
Which one of the silent girls is guilty? Or is it both of them?