“What a tangled web we weave…”
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Jennie and Martha. Martha and Jennie. Two women tied together by an obsessive infatuation…until death. We know from page one that the end result is that one murders the other, but we don’t know which is the victim, which the murderess.
This is a clever, twisted and blackly funny tale of obsession, told by a mistress of the art of the tangled web. Jennie and Martha take it in turns to tell us the story of their parallel lives. When laid-back extrovert Martha takes her uptight, friendless neighbour Jennie under her wing, she unwittingly starts a chain of events that will shape both their lives forever. Jennie’s admiration for Martha soon turns to obsession and jealousy. Martha is the centre of the social life of The Close – a small group of middle-class houses set so near to a sink estate that their house values have fallen meaning that none of them can afford to move away. In this claustrophobic atmosphere, Jennie does everything she can to try to keep Martha’s attention all for herself and as time goes on her methods become more and more extreme until she’s prepared to sacrifice anything – or anyone – to stop Martha from ending their friendship.
So given that Jennie is clearly a fruitcake, it’s obvious who did the murder…isn’t it? Except that there’s another side to this story. Martha, the confident and out-going one, has problems of her own and they’re growing. And perhaps, though she doesn’t know it, she needs Jennie as much as Jennie needs her. Perhaps the obsession isn’t such a one-way street after all…
This is only the second book of Gillian White’s that I’ve read, the other being Unhallowed Ground. In that one, I admired her story-telling skills, her characterisation and the tension that she managed to build, though I thought the ending let it down a little. This later one, first published in 2002, shows those same skills in abundance; but now she’s added some deliciously sly humour into the mix and I found the ending completely satisfying. It’s almost like a traditional mystery in reverse – the answer seems obvious from the beginning but becomes progressively less so as the story is revealed. As I reached the last couple of chapters, I still had no idea who was going to do the wicked deed and felt that White had achieved the near perfection of either answer being entirely consistent with what had gone before. Highly recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Open Road, via Netgalley in advance of publication of a Kindle edition on 19th March 2013.