A missing girl.
Olivia’s idyllic family life in a Swiss mountain village is falling apart. She thought she’d managed to escape the past, but it’s coming back to haunt her.
Has somebody discovered her secret – why she had to leave Scotland more than ten years ago?
And what is her connection to Marie, a lonely schoolgirl in a Yorkshire seaside town, and Lucy, a student at a Scottish university?
A twisty family mystery with a dark edge, where nothing is as it seems.
I read Alison Baillie's brilliant debut novel 'Sewing the Shadows Together' back in 2015 and I've been eagerly waiting her next one ever since. Admittedly the author sent me this book some months ago, but unfortunately it's only now that I found the time to read it.
The main character in this book is Olivia Keller, a Scottish woman living a prosperous life in a small mountainous village in Switzerland. Her husband, Christian, is Swiss, and they live together with their children in a beautiful house surrounded by breathtaking views. However, as the book is aptly titled, this ideal life is suddenly fractured when a local girl, best friend of Olivia's daughter Lara, disappears into thin air. Numerous search missions prove fruitless and the girl remains missing. Where is Sandra? What happened to her? Was she involved in some accident and is now injured and alone in some remote place? Or has something more sinister happened to her? Was she kidnapped? Murdered? And if it were so, why and by whom?
Sandra was a family friend and Olivia becomes obsessed with her disappearance, thinking that it could have been her daughter who has gone missing. But this will be just the beginning of the unravelling of Olivia's life. A few days later, she receives a sinister note. In the note, someone asks her how she could sleep at night knowing what she has done back in Scotland. And here we start to get the picture. Olivia has escaped from Scotland and is in hiding in this remote village in Switzerland. What terrible thing has she done in Edinburgh? Who knows about her secret? Not even her husband knows about it. Suddenly, the past she has fought so hard to keep away and hidden has come back to destroy her new life. The memories and the ghosts of the past start to haunt her days. The ideal life she had so painstakingly built begins to crumble as she's carried away by her own fears, obsessions and suspicions.
Olivia is quite a weak character, leaving all decisions in her husband's hands, and as the book progresses, she begins to go to pieces as the mask behind which she has lived all these years in Switzerland begins to slip away. She becomes progressively paranoid, choked by fear, consumed by suspicions, not trusting anyone, not even her family. Her husband doesn't recognise her any more. She knows that someone is out there watching her and waiting for the right moment to come and destroy her and her family.
The book is well written and all characters are realistic and believable. Thanks to the author's vivid descriptions, I found myself in this beautiful country, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lakes and forests. I could almost inhale the fresh air and feel the biting cold on my skin. The author also gives us an insight into some Swiss traditions. Alternating chapters take us back and forth in time between what's happening in Switzerland now and what took place in Scotland in the past.
I was surprised by what happens at the end. I wasn't expecting things to turn the way they did and am not that sure I like the way the mystery is solved, but I like the way the book eventually ends. Maybe, I would have preferred it to be a bit more suspenseful, and at times I felt it was a bit repetitive, as Olivia zig-zags between her house and one of the other three or four places in the village she visits regularly on her mission to solve the mystery behind the girl's disappearance and to rebuild her own life.
However, on the whole, this was quite an enjoyable, absorbing read and I went through it very fast, wanting to find the answers to the many questions invading my mind.
With thanks to the author for a copy of this book which I voluntarily accepted to read and review.
Alison Baillie was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales, but has always felt Scottish. Her parents were both from Scotland and, as soon as she could, she went back there to study English at the University of St Andrews. After a year in Finland she taught English in several Edinburgh High Schools. She then moved to Switzerland, where she still lives, but her heart will always be in Scotland, where she goes as often as possible. She loves travelling, reading crime fiction, going to crime writing festivals and being with her family and friends. In 2015, her first novel, Sewing the Shadows Together, set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, was published. To find out more about her and her books, visit her website alisonbaillie.com or follow her on Facebook at Alison Baillie Author or Twitter alisonbailliex. If you enjoy the book, please contact her. She’d love to hear from you. And if you could write a review after reading A Fractured Winter, it would mean so much to her.