In a Cottage In a Wood by Cass Green is a dark and twisty psychological thriller from the No. 1 ebook bestselling author of The Woman Next Door (available January 23, 2018).
30-year-old Neve Carey most definitely does NOT have her life together. She’s still reeling from her father’s recent death, and she and her boyfriend Daniel broke up a few weeks ago. She’s staying at her sister Lou’s house, along with her husband and two small children. It’s far from an ideal situation.
She is really feeling the despair of it all when she wakes up beside a man whose name she doesn’t remember in a seedy London hotel—a few days before Christmas, no less. When Neve stumbles out into the night, she encounters a beautiful woman who appears cold and afraid on the Waterloo Bridge where they have a short exchange:
Isabelle opens the clutch bag and produces a small brown envelope. ‘I want you to take this.’
Neve hesitates and eyes it suspiciously. ‘What is this?’
‘It’s a gift. For being kind to me.’
Neve takes a step back and holds up her palms. ‘Look, I’ve done nothing. I just don’t want you freezing to death on my conscience. I’m not that kind, trust me. I’m actually a bit of a cow. Ask anyone.’
‘You are kind,’ says Isabelle quietly. ‘I can sense it. Will you take this, just to humour me? Say you will. Say it.’
Neve stares back at the woman, discomfited by her intense, strange manner.
A passing car washes them with its headlights. For a moment, Isabelle looks cadaverous, her eyes sunk in deep pockets of shadow.
‘It’s important,’ she says fiercely. ‘Please.’
Neve is so unnerved now that all she can do is thrust out her hand and take the envelope.
Isabelle’s shoulders droop and she seems to shrink in on herself.
Neve could never have imagined that the next thing Isabelle would do would be to jump off the bridge to her death. Neve is understandably shocked, and the envelope gets lost in the shuffle of emergency and police that are called to the scene.
Things are coming to a head at her sister’s house, though, and the situation is becoming untenable. An outburst at her sister’s in-laws at Christmas is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and Neve knows she’ll have to move out soon. But Neve’s life is about to change.
She receives a letter from a law firm and finds out that Isabelle has left her a cottage called Petty Whin. A house! Neve can’t imagine why a stranger would do that, but it does prompt her to quit her job and run off to the cottage—after leaving a note of apology to her sister, of course. She sets off with very little money to her name and no real plan other than knowing that she needs to get away.
Neve imagines a fairytale cottage, whitewashed with ivy creeping over the façade. What she gets is, well, NOT a fairy tale.
Neve looks around and lets out a small moan of dismay.
She doesn’t really know what she had been expecting. Maybe a large family room with worn flagstones and dried herbs hanging neatly above an Aga. Not that she would have had the faintest idea what to do with an Aga. But she’d hope for something warm and homey.
It certainly wasn’t this. Clumps of mud and dirt cover the floor and the bin is overflowing with rubbish that smells so bad she has to cover her face with her hand. There’s a draught coming from somewhere.
The 1970s lino flooring and mud-brown cupboards are bad enough. But she never expected it to be so filthy.
This is all bad enough, but she finds a dead bird in the sink, and there are bars on the windows. Why would there be bars on the windows? Luckily, there are friendly neighbors, Sally and Will, and if their son, Matty, is a little weird, she can live with that. Knowing that time and money may be running short—and with a home full of clues—Neve attempts to find out more about the woman that left her the home and starts to uncover some strange facts. When strange things begin to happen around the cottage, Neve wonders if someone is harassing her—or if she’s going crazy.
The truth is stranger than fiction, and Green sets her heroine (who has some growing up to do) smack down in the middle of an atmospheric, creepy mystery. Neve is forced to take responsibility and control of her own life, even if it means learning some hard truths about herself and her past. It doesn’t hurt that she has a friend in Jasper, a sweet dog that belongs to Isabelle’s strange brother, Richard.
Neve has a wicked sense of humor, which I love, and although she’s quite immature at the beginning, she a very different girl by the end. Readers will have fun uncovering the clues to the mystery of Isabelle right along with Neve in this fast, fun thriller.
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