Tideline is a first novel, by Penny Hancock, that has quickly achieved a great reputation. I met Penny at Crimefest in May, when we were on the same panel, moderated by Peter Guttridge. What she had to say about her debut sounded interesting, and at last I've caught up with it. Suffice to say that the accolades are well-earned - this is going to be the rave review I promised yesterday!
The story-line interweaves two connected narratives. Sonia tells her story in the first person, and it soon becomes clear that she is rather disturbed, possibly as a result of a tragic incident in her past involving somone called Seb. A 15 year old boy comes to visit her in her intriguing home on the banks of the River Thames - and Sonia decides that she doesn't want to let him leave.
An alternative perspective is provided by a third person narrative featuring Helen, the aunt of the missing boy. Helen has her own problems, compounded by a taste for alcohol, and her life disintegrates as the police investigate the boy's disappearance, and suspicion grows that she may have had a hand in it.
Years ago, I talked to a literary agent about the success of Minette Walters; she attributed it to a combination of excellent plotting and excellent writing. The same can be said of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vne, and with Penny Hancock's debut, the blend of story and style is again very impressive. The setting is superbly evoked, and though the plot has some echoes of The Collector and Misery, this is not a weakness, for the author has a very different approach from that of John Fowles and Stephen King, and the result is a very different book. I really enjoyed this one - it's the best recent debut I've read since Belinda Bauer's Blacklands.