The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

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The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A cleverly-constructed thriller which will keep you guessing to the end. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: August 2021
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241989098

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In August 2018 we meet a young woman called Imogen and she's viewing a house in Goring-on-Thames and telling the estate agent about her three children, Lavender, Freddie and Barclay. The boys are a bit of a handful which is why she's making this trip on her own. The house would be perfect for them.

It's the same month but now we're in Wimbledon and we encounter the same young woman, only this time she's job hunting and living in her sister, Georgie's, spare room, where she's been since she broke up with her boyfriend, Connor. Georgie's the curator of an independent art gallery and she's been happily married to Jack for twenty-five years. Nessa's presence is proving something of a strain though. She's Georgie's younger sister and Georgie has felt responsible for her since their mother's early death. Their father has remarried and there's no support from that quarter.

It was Connor Dawkins, who pushed Vanessa into quitting the job she loved with Luna London, a cosmetics company. Nessa wasn't well, he said, and the job was too much for her. It was true that Nessa wasn't mentally stable: why else would a young woman view houses which she certainly couldn't afford and go complete with a fictional backstory for the estate agent? Why would she take a 'souvenir' from the houses? What she was doing was risky and went wrong when she went to view a house that featured in a book she'd been obsessed with as a child - and was shown around by the author of the book. Geoffrey Rivers would be dead by the end of the viewing and Nessa would be suspected of his murder.

You'll have your suspicions about Connor Dawkins. He's good looking and charismatic but perhaps a little too influenced by his mother. Sometimes he's overly considerate about Nessa - but then he's unworried when he places her in a difficult situation. It's his job, he says - he's trying to make a good impression and was hoping Nessa could help him. Then the doubts creep in when facts don't quite tally but Connor always has an answer. Nessa doubts herself too - after all, she's recently fallen out with her long-term best friend over the fact that she moved out of their flat to be with Connor. Lottie worked for a children's charity and seemed very grounded: now Nessa's adrift and only has Georgie to support her.

I did enjoy this book. I read it over a couple of days when I really should have been doing something else. I had to find out what happened. Had Nessa killed Geoffrey Rivers, as she suspected? What was the truth about Connor Dawkins? I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

For more from Nuala Ellwood, we can recommend The House on the Lake.

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