My Sunday Book Review is for Lucinda E. Clarke’s psychological thriller – A Year in the Life of Leah Brand. Leah has certainly had her share of grief in her life, and just when she thinks life has given her a second chance at happiness, her world begins spinning out of control.
Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died.
A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.
Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect.
Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings.
As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why?
A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.
My 4 Star Review:
This is certainly a different type of physcological thriller. Leah Brand is a lovely woman whose life has become a series of crazy mishaps making her life spiral out of control shortly after marrying Mason. After surviving a fatal car accident that took her first husband and two children and one of her legs, Leah’s new life becomes a nightmare.
The story begins when we’re taken into Leah’s life and marriage She’s remarried to Mason, a very unlikeable man whose ex-wife had run off and left him with a teenage terror daughter Belinda and estranged son Leo (who doesn’t show up til late in the book). We’re vaguely informed that Mason’s first wife left him. Slowly Leah becomes unraveled as things start appearing and disappearing in her house to the point where she thinks she might be going crazy. The only friend she has is next door neighbor Andrea, and throughout the book we’re left wondering if even Andrea is a real friend.
There are many unlikeable characters in this book from conniving Mason to his daughter – and plenty more, but no spoilers. There seems to be no place of safety or sanity for Leah as she spends her days trying to figure out what is going on in her life, her home, and with her hot and cold relationship with her narcissistic husband. And without insights about this awful man prior to the start of the story, I continued to struggle with why on earth this lovely woman who has been through so much grief in life – losing her family and putting up with an equally evil mother with dementia, continued to endure the unhappiness she was living.
The story is told from Leah’s perspective – first person, which I enjoy. We get to learn Leah’s thoughts and rationales for actions and surmisings. But despite not knowing why everything is going bizarro in Leah’s world, I found it a tad unbelievable that a smart woman with a head on her shoulders would endure all the shenanigans, and I felt disturbed throughout the book – sign of good writing, but reader frustration. It took the whole book of enduring Leah’s angst to wait for the explanation of the happenings, which ultimately felt a wee bit out of left field when we finally learn some of the story’s mysteries.
The ending didn’t tie up things as I anticipated, once the discoveries were let out of the bag, I assume more will be revealed in book 2 as I’m sure this book was left as a cliffhanger because some of the answers still left room for clarification, leaving me questioning why I was left still suspecting more behind the revelations, as just desserts weren’t doled out and a mysterious disappearance hadn’t fully been resolved.
Without a doubt, Clarke is a crafty writer. She planted lots of red herrings throughout the story along with two minor other characters who brought back the likeability factor – a real friend, Bill, and Aunty Dierdre. These characters offered a breath of fresh air in a story of constant craziness, while feeling sorry for Leah, yet wanting to smack her in the head with a wake-up call to get the hell out of the nuthouse she was living in and away from the people in her life who treated her so bloody poorly. I like to root for the underdog in a story, but I think Leah missed stepping up to the plate. I know not every story has likeable characters, I may just be that reader who it bothers too much.
Well written and definitely a book to keep the pages turning. The only reason for 4 stars is a personal one, not a reflection on the writer who certainly had a vision in mind for Leah’s character. But as a reader, I get flustered by women who stay with abusive men and make excuses for them.
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