Thursday, June 20, 2013
Review: Accidents Happen by Louise Millar
Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN is a psychological thriller based around the idea that some people appear to be very unlucky, even cursed, and suffer more misfortunes than others. In this case, Kate Parker is the unlucky person, as her husband was murdered, and her parents had earlier died in a car crash on the day of her wedding. Now, Kate and her 10-year-old son Jack live together in Oxford, having left their house in London where her husband was killed, to be close to her husband’s family. Kate is trying to recover from her husband’s murder and is obsessed with keeping herself and her son safe.
Kate’s obsession with risk levels, statistical chances of accidents in a variety of situations, and the like, severely limit her ability to live a normal life and worry her remaining family. This is not helped by Kate’s belief that someone is coming into her house when she and Jack are out, even eating food out of the fridge. She is so worried by this that she installs some sort of burglar proof cage to seal off the first floor of the house, preventing any burglars that might enter downstairs from accessing the bedrooms. Is she imagining things? Or is someone really able to somehow enter the house and roam about freely when she’s not there?
Then she meets a man, Jago, who is apparently a visiting professor in Oxford, teaching courses about risk and even seems to have written a book about it, which Kate eagerly reads. He gradually gains Kate’s trust, and starts helping her to take risks, overcome her fears and gradually turn back into the normal, happy woman she was before life cruelly took away the people she loved.
Interspersed between the story of Kate, are a few short chapters relating to an unknown boy, and his family, who live in a house where there are ‘snakes’ in the wall. Clearly something very bad happened to this boy, his house and his parents and gradually these chapters fill out the story. There has to be a connection between that story and the present day somehow, and slowly the links are revealed, with the expected dramatic conclusion.
The description of Kate’s apparent paranoia, its effects on her son Jack, and her husband’s family are convincing. Her gradual recovery back to a ‘normal person’ through her relationship with Jago is well described and carefully lulls the reader into a false sense of security before things start to fall apart. There is a fine line between real paranoia, and a simple uncertainty that things are not quite right, and the sense that Kate is both unclear and worried about which side of the line she does in fact lie is nicely conveyed. The only slight disappointment to me was the denouement, which seemed just a little too far fetched. But that slight misgiving aside, this was an intriguing book and an absorbing read.
Michelle Peckham, June 2013