It's 1980 and five graduates decide to spend a year at a dilapidated cottage by a lake in the Peak District: Kat, through whose eyes the story is told; Simon, the self-appointed leader of the group, and the man she's fancied all through uni; Ben and Carla, a couple who are better at growing food and cooking it than the others; and Mac, the quiet one, who at least has some idea of living off the land. Then Kat's sister, Freya, turns up . . .
In the present, Lila is left the key to the same cottage by a mysterious donor. She's just had a miscarriage after falling down the stairs. She can't come to terms with her loss, or remember the details of how it happened, and decides to take some time away from her husband, Tom, and go up to the cottage. After all she is an interior designer, perhaps she could so something with it?
When she arrives, she finds it's been uninhabited for some time and it looks as if the people left in a hurry, leaving everything just as it was.
The two halves of the story are told alternately, each reflecting what happens in the present with what happened in the past. Gradually, the pieces of the mystery are put together, and Lila finds out the terrible secret of what happened during that shadow year.
Another image is the alder trees sheltering the lake. They remind me of the poem by Charles Stuart Calverley called Shelter which mentions 'the wide weird lake where the alders sigh'. (You can find it here. It's worth a read.)
Apart from Hannah Richell's emotional descriptions and believable characters, she really has the skill to keep you guessing. I even found myself going through the possibilities, summing up what I knew and trying to work out what had happened, in just the same way I might work at one of my own plots!
This is Hannah's second novel, I reviewed Secrets of the Tides last year, and said that I just had to sit down and finish it! It's been the same with this one too!
I think it's a great book in the style of Jojo Moyes. Start reading it today, but make sure you're sitting comfortably: you won't want to stop!