A Gripping Gothic Mystery Full of Twists and Turns

Au Pair by Emma Rous
Genre: mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Date: January 8, 2019
Reviewed by: Dez Nemec
Fiction Addict Scorecard: B

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby. Who is the child, and what really happened that day? Synopsis from Amazon.

Thinking perhaps her older brother Edwin’s au pair may have the answers, Seraphine goes in search of Laura.

The book shifts between Seraphine’s story in the present day and Laura’s in 1991. Seraphine’s story surrounds her quest for answers regarding her and her brother’s birth. Laura’s story occurs during her 11 months at Summerbourne, with the events preceding Ruth’s pregnancy through to the twins’ birth and Ruth’s suicide. Seraphine is desperate to discover the truth about her family, but someone is trying to stop her. Laura and Seraphine both receive threatening messages – including the word STOP burned into the lawn at Summerbourne. But Seraphine can’t stop. She needs to know the truth of what happened that summer no matter the consequences.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book. Looking at the title, I was expecting a Hallmark movie plot. While there is sufficient drama to satisfy any soap opera enthusiast, it is all integral to the story and to the mystery (and not annoying for us non-soap opera enthusiasts). It’s a thriller, it’s a drama, and it’s a great gothic story. There are twists and turns aplenty, and close attention must be paid at the end when things come to a head. Perhaps the culmination of the au pair’s story was a bit much, but everything tied together perfectly and ended well. It was a good reminder that all families are dysfunctional, some are just worse than others. I had a hard time putting it down.

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