Karen, a conventionally reared college student, is drawn into the intense lives of a strange brother and sister living in a large run-down house on the outskirts of Highgate.
The heatwave and the brooding woods create an uneasy atmosphere. The story unfolds in interleaving episodes: Karen narrates her present day life in the present tense: the frightening events of one short summer in the past tense. This works well. Meticulous and evocative detail does not hold up the impetus of the narrative, in which frequent references are made to the shocking calamity to come, and it is fairly obvious what that calamity might be – or is it?
Karen’s conventional nature is well-contrasted with the eccentric behaviour of Biba and her brother Rex, with both of whom she is besotted. Biba is amoral and unbalanced, and Rex is anxious and caring. In the present day it soon becomes clear that Rex has been in prison and that Karen and Rex are together, with a child, Alice.
The author deliberately teases us to try to forecast the outcome, but the final ending is unexpected. I found this a most absorbing read.