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Wednesday 19 September 2018

‘When the Lights Go Out’ by Mary Kubica

Published by HQ,
23 August 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-84845-670-9 (PB)

Mary Kubica is shaping up to be one of those authors whose books are a constant surprise. When the Lights Go Out is her fourth, and so far no two have been in the least alike.

America's midwest is her stamping ground, and she has a knack for bringing its quirky corners to vivid life. This time much of the action takes place in and around an old carriage house: an apartment which was probably once the home of the coachmen or chauffeurs of the affluent families who once owned the dilapidated house in whose grounds it stands. The building is old and creaky, and its odd-shaped rooms and weird nighttime noises almost become another character in the story.

Or one of the stories. There are two, which run in parallel. Jessie, who moves to the carriage house early in the narrative after losing her mother to cancer and is assailed by insomnia and the fear it brings that lack of sleep may hasten her own death although she is only nineteen. Eden is newly married, trying and failing to get pregnant. Her home too is distinctive, a pretty cottage overlooking the ocean.

In alternate chapters each tells her story, growing increasingly desperate as the things they need and desire most refuse to happen. The link between them is revealed early, but a dark mystery still lies between them, only to be revealed in the final chapters.

Mary Kubica clearly has an insight into the mind of a woman in distress, disturbed and almost destroyed by a quirk of fate. Jessie's anguish mounts as grief threatens to overwhelm her, sleep continues to elude her and she loses sight of what is real and what her tortured psyche is inventing; Eden begins to lose her grip as her options run out and month follows month without a baby on the horizon.

These two characters made me ache for them, but they don't suffer alone. Liam, a man Jessie meets at the hospital the night her mother dies, is gentle and caring, but has problems of his own. Aaron, Eden's husband, shares her sense of loss but can't carry her grief along with his own. And then there's Miranda, unappreciative mother of three who only makes Eden feel worse; and Ms Geissler, who owns the big dilapidated house and can't see Jessie's problem.

The mystery is finally unlocked, and the ending of Jessie's heart-wrenching story took me by surprise; my jury is still out on whether it was a clever twist with all the clues in place, or a shock to make the most seasoned mystery reader gasp in disbelief. All I can say is read it and decide for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.  She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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