A long time horror fan, I stumbled my way into thrillers and suspense last year, and became quite hooked. The anxious feelings, wondering what was lurking in a dark hallway (or on the next page), was chilling and delightful. The comparative lack of blood and guts, of which I have become less a fan, also delightful. So as my algorithm in Amazon updated to suggest more suspense, and I signed up for a newsletter or three dedicated to the thrill and suspense genre, Barbara Vine’s “A Fatal Inversion” was recommended. A quick glance at the Amazon summary and I snapped it up. Psychological Fiction, Thriller, British Fiction, all good stuff. Several reviews noted the author’s attention to detail, awesome. And then it sat there, on my To Be Read list. When the Cannonball Read started, I was positive this book was the one to start off with! I was excited! I was giddy! I was utterly disappointed when I finally cracked the damn thing open!
The premise of the novel is great. A couple buys the Wyvis Hall estate in Suffolk, England. Many, many paragraphs are devoted to detailing the lands, the trees, the flowers, the pet cemetery, the bushes, the so many bushes. Oy. After a beloved pet dies, they couple heads on over to the pet cemetery for a proper send off, only to unearth (dramatic gasp) human remains! Ten years prior to the unfortunate animal burial attempt, a young man had inherited Wyvis Hall from his great uncle, and spent the summer in a debauched laze about on the estate with friends. A young woman and child were murdered during this summer on the estate, leaving the friends to solemnly swear to never speak of the events and never contact each other again. The book is told in a series of flashbacks to the ill fated summer, from the various participants who are now going about their daily lives. Although you know this group of friends was responsible for the deaths, the hows and whys and ultimate pull of the trigger is only revealed in the final quarter of the book.
This should have been a great read. I love tales that are drawn out, slowly unraveling a mystery, making you realize that some tidbit from earlier in the book was actually a great clue. This…this was slow and plodding and packed to the gills with wholly irritating and unpleasant characters. A review on the Goodreads website notes that this is probably not the author’s best novel to start with, so I won’t put Barbara Vine on my Never Read Their Work Again list, but I will absolutely toss her there if any future reads are this unbearably slow.