Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rowan Winter is regretting that she didn't make peace with her best friend from childhood, Marianne Glass, before it was too late in Keep You Close.  Marianne has recently died after a fall off her roof, and her death brings back many upsetting memories for her estranged friend Rowan.

Rowan's mother died when she was a baby, and her father was frequently away on business, leaving Rowan with a distant housekeeper.  Luckily, her friend Marianne's family became like a surrogate family to her, taking Rowan in and allowing her to stay there any time she pleased.  She admired Marianne's parents, Jacqueline and Seb, even if she began to see cracks in their relationship.  She and Marianne were inseparable throughout their school years, and Rowan also had a massive crush on Marianne's brother, Adam.

Everything was going well until Seb began an affair with a young woman named Lorna.  It begins to look as if this affair (unlike his many others) will finally succeed in tearing the family apart.  Before there is a final split, Lorna is killed in an accident, and not long after Seb dies also.  These tragic events served to sever the relationship between Rowan and Marianne, but what exactly caused the estrangement?

It's been a decade, and in that time, Marianne has become a world-famous artist.  She is living with a man named James Greenwood who has a teenage daughter.  Rowan continued her education, eventually working as a researcher at the BBC.  Recently, she's given up her job to concentrate on getting another degree.  Since she is not bound to a job, Marianne's family asks if she would stay in the old family home (where Marianne died) in Oxford as a house-sitter, just until they can find a buyer for the house.  Rowan is pleased to be back where so much of her youth was spent happily.  At the same time, she begins to question what really happened to Marianne.  She knows that Marianne suffered from vertigo, and wouldn't have gone up on the roof by herself voluntarily.  Yet the police believe that's exactly what happened, since there was snow on the ground, and only one set of footprints, so Marianne must have been alone when she fell from the roof.  So was it an accident, or suicide, or did someone manage to push her off the roof after all?

Rowan soon begins an affair with Adam, taking up where they never got started as teenagers.  There is soon another, somewhat unwelcome presence, on the scene:  Michael Cory.  Michael is also an artist, although one who courts controversy.  He had apparently been growing close to Marianne before her death, and he's also trying to get to the bottom of what really happened to her.   Plenty of strange things are happening as well, including Marianne's conviction before her death that someone was breaking in and stealing her work, a strange man who seems to be spying on the house from across the street, and an unknown figure that hides in the back garden and always manages to escape just before Rowan can intervene.  Just what do these people have to do with Marianne's death, and does her death have anything to do with the events that fractured her friendship with Rowan?

I enjoyed the Oxford setting of this book, having recently returned from a visit to that lovely city!  Rowan seems like a bit of a drip, not really having any direction in life or real ambition to do anything much (she's always putting off doing any "work" toward her degree).  The story does take an unexpected turn about three quarters of the way through, and the rest of the book is very exciting as we try to see if the mysteries of the past will be able to stay hidden, or if they will explode with unwelcome consequences in the present (guess which?).

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Keep You Close from the publisher in exchange for this review


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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