A body was discovered in a wardrobe in a house submerged under a reservoir. Retired DCI, Driver suspected the body to be a student, Helena Warner, who was missing 20 years ago. He had interviewed the last three persons to see her then – the boyfriend, Ian Gilmore, the best friend, Joan and an artist friend, Richard Wachmanns. The submerged house had belonged to the artist; however Driver had very strong suspicions of Ian. He was very sure that the other two were lying to protect Ian for reasons Driver could not fathom; since there was no concrete evidence, so the case was closed after 3 months.
With the discovery of the body, Driver contacted the new officer in charge - Detective Superintendent Rigby, who was reluctant to reopen the case. Driver was disappointed, and went to see Wachmann’s mother and found her dead. It was discovered that she was murdered; there were signs of brutal battering and Ian’s fingerprints were found there. With this new discovery, Rigby had to reopen the old case of Helena Warner.
They started with the previous three suspects – Ian, Joan and Richard. Joan was now staying in a squalid room, making hardly enough to pay her rent. She had wanted to pursue success; her idea of success is a career, a house, a partner and maybe some kids – none of which she had.
Ian Gilmore was working with softwares, his life was bleak, and he had a fear of commitment. His relationships with women never last; they would sooner or later leave him, not understanding his indifference to them.
Richard Wachmann was an artist, under psychiatric care, staying at Churchill House, a private mental hospital.
Since the discovery of Helena’s body, Ian tried to establish contact with Joan and Richard. Ian went to see Richard’s mother to ask for his new address, but she refused to inform him. Ian found Joan instead, and they referred to the incident 20 years back….
.……Joan had learnt a lot about Ian, from the letters that Helena wrote her – and she had secretly fallen in love with Ian. Joan had also discovered that Helena was being unfaithful to Ian; in fact she was having an affair with Richard. Joan tried to tell Ian about Helena’s promiscuity, but Ian didn’t believe her. On the day that Helena died, Richard had planned a party at his house. It was the first time that Joan met Ian, the man she had heard about so much. Joan saw Helena and Richard leaving the party quietly and followed them. She found them making love outside, and went to fetch Ian. On seeing them, Ian lost his mind and hit Richard with a strength he hardly knew he possessed. Richard ran away; Ian lashed out at Helena instead, and sent her crashing against the wall. She fell and cracked her head; Ian thought he had killed her. Joan led Ian back to the house and comforted him. Later on, when Richard came back to the house, they decided to cover up Helena’s body and agreed on a story……...
The police were now in a hurry to contact Joan and Richard, fearing that Ian might try to kill them as well. However, the police at the Wachmann’s property have come across other clues, leading to the cases of past murders and missing girls. They caught up with Joan and Ian, and took them to the police station. Meanwhile, Driver and Rigby had found Richard and interviewed him, with his psychiatrist and lawyer present. Richard admitted to the murder of his mother, and then revealed how his parents had been suspicious of his twisted mind since young. Girls were missing, wherever they took him for vacations; and later on, girls who came to their property, disappeared too. When Helena’s body was discovered, his mother was sure that her son was responsible and had wanted to go to the police; that was why Richard had killed her.
This is a compelling psychological thriller, very absorbing and chilling; Julia Martin has created fascinating characters, albeit with unfulfilled lives. The novel itself is full of tragedy and desperation – strange bonds that tie people who have taken part in a terrible crime. This is however, a very enjoyable book that I am able to complete quickly, waiting impatiently for the end to understand the motives behind the murderer’s psyche.