Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published: 21st June 2019
Reviewed: 10th July 2019
When I first set eyes on Westhill House with its breath-taking views of the sea I knew it was the perfect place for a fresh start. The place may be falling apart, but it can be fixed with some tender loving care. And as Jack and I work to repair this beautiful building, maybe we can repair our relationship too. Maybe we can make Westhill House a refuge from all the tragedies that came before.
Lori has come to Westhill House for shelter too. She says it used to be a place where women went for safety. How can I turn her away, when violence waits for her outside these high walls?
But the longer Lori stays, the more time Jack spends away. And the more she helps me restore the house, the more secrets start to be revealed. Like the children’s drawings under the wallpaper in the back bedroom, and the hidden papers underneath the floorboards in the turret room. But why does Lori know so much about Westhill House, if she’s never been here before? What does she really need protection from?
And now I’ve invited her into my dream house, is there any escape for either of us?
Beginning with a prologue where a girl escapes to an isolated place to give birth, the story switches back and forth between the present-day/first-person perspective of Stella - and the past/third-person limited perspective of Kay.
A year ago Stella’s parents were killed in a hit and run, and still grieving, Stella has bought a huge neglected house with the inheritance her parents have left her. As foster carers, her parents worked tirelessly to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but it is clear Stella is hiding a secret from her past that has left her dredged in guilt. When a stranger (Lori) turns up on the doorstep covered in bruises and claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse, Stella sees this as an opportunity to redeem herself from whatever it is she has done, but with Stella’s boyfriend, Jack, believing Lori has a hidden agenda, Stella soon starts telling white lies to keep Lori hidden from him. True to the psychological thriller genre, these small lies soon escalate and before we know it there is a whole cast of unreliable characters. Jack might not trust Lori, but Lori doesn’t trust him either, and with Stella’s first-person narrative putting the reader right in her shoes, it is difficult to know exactly who she can trust. And then there’s the builder: a great bloke, salt of the earth, so why does he go missing as soon as the police start sniffing around?
The past timeline tells the story of Kay who got pregnant when she was fifteen. At first I thought this related to the prologue but we soon learn that fifteen-year-old Kay has supportive parents (well sort of) so it can’t be. Kay goes on to marry an abusive ‘man’ who everybody thinks is wonderful, unaware of what goes on behind closed doors. This part of the story deals with some dark and gritty issues and with such a slow build up, where Kay’s husband goes from being somebody who is over-attentive to somebody who is controlling and violent, this makes you consider relationships in the present timeline. Is Jack’s behaviour because he is genuinely concerned for Stella or because he is controlling? It also links to the present timeline theme of things not being as they appear to the outside world.
Ping-ponging between past and present, The Dream House made for one hell of a read. I’m usually pretty good at second guessing what happens but this was full of surprisingly clever plot twists. For most of the story, Lori’s identity is kept secret but once it is revealed, everything (including the prologue) all makes sense. I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it for anybody who likes Lisa Jewell, Louise Jensen, or Jo Ullah.
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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About the Author
jess Ryder is the author of five psychological thrillers - 'The Ex Wife', 'Lie to Me', 'The Good Sister', 'The Dream House' and her latest, published March 20 2020 - 'The Girl You Gave Away'. All titles are published by Bookouture. She also writes as Jan Page, with many books published including 'Selina Penaluna'. With many years' experience as a scriptwriter, she loves watching television crime drama. Jess is a passionate reader and particularly enjoys thrillers. Jess lives with her partner in London, UK and has four grown-up children.