Happy Publication Day for The Caretakers!🎂🍾🥂💐
EXCERPT: The screams have long since died away. The bloodstains, like the memories, have faded with time, obscured beneath a fine layer of dust. Mildew creeps along the peeling floral wallpaper. The window frames are soft with rot.
A skylight of colored glass softly illuminates the slow and steady decay. Once, laughter filled the spaces between the tired walls. Running feet and mother’s hugs and whispers under cover at night. Hearts beat, as hearts do, then broke, then beat again. Until they didn’t.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Filmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended.
She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge.
A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this atmospheric read. It has all the ingredients . . . feuding sisters, family retainers, a crumbling old house, tragedy, secrets, lies and betrayals. Beautiful! And exquisitely written.
The characterisation is superb. Tessa is a successful documentary filmmaker, a righter of wrongs. That’s her public persona. Behind that facade, she suffers from an overwhelming guilt and anxiety, enough to have had her hospitalised and on medication. She and twin sister Margot haven’t spoken in almost twenty years. Margot’s husband, Ben, used to be Tessa’s boyfriend, and there was a time when the three of them were inseparable. So it is to Ben Tessa turns when Margot doesn’t respond to Tessa’s cry for help.
At Fallbrook, monstrously large, once proud and haughty, we have more sisters, Kitty, falling prey to the grasping tentacles of dementia, and Deirdre, the practical no nonsense one, caretakers not only of Fallbrook, but of all the secrets contained within those crumbling walls. And strangely, they are there not to preserve Fallbrook, but to make sure that it is not taken care of, that it is left to rot away.
These two worlds collide following the death of Tessa and Margot’s mother, and their inheritance of a legacy that comes with its own tragic history, and a mystery that demands to be unravelled.
Add in a kidnapping, dementia, an evil stepmother, familial abuse and a manhunt . . . and it all sounds rather overwhelming, and it is, slightly. Which is why there are 4.5 stars rather than the full five. But it is only slightly overwhelming, rather than hugely. All these diverse threads do all tie in together beautifully in the end. There is nothing predictable in this book. It is an absorbing and rewarding read.
I do caution you you to take particular notice of the various family relationships, who is who and which family they belong to. It does become important later in the book. I didn’t, and found myself flicking furiously back to the earlier chapters.
On another track entirely, it is strange what we retain from other reads. I recently read a book in which one of the characters was a wallpaper restorer. At one point when Tessa is at Fallbrook she uses a marker pen to scribble notes all over the ancient wallpaper in one of the rooms. As I was reading I am mentally screaming at her, ‘Don’t do that! You are desecrating something old and beautiful!’ Of course, she took no notice of me whatsoever.
I will be reading more from this author. In her acknowledgments, the author likened writing a book to making a pot of soup and sharing it. ‘If you’re very lucky, a few who will finish the bowl (will) ask for seconds.’ I am one of those. ‘More please, Ms. Maxwell.’
‘The dead are at peace….it’s the living who struggle.’
The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell is due for publication April 14, 2020.
THE AUTHOR: Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with a patient man, two impatient children and a bird named Sarah. When she’s not working on her next novel, she stays busy trying to keep her children from some future therapist’s chair.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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