Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
This is a novel preoccupied with teenage angst. A group of students share a house after one of their number has lost two siblings to violent deaths. The Coroner's verdict was suicide. Guilt pervades the group to the extent that they would prefer the verdict to have been murder, absolving them from the suspicion that the deaths could have been prevented.
But the body count increases, even including a death from cancer ("natural causes") and surviving older family members seek refuge in drink and neurosis. There is domestic abuse, minds go awry. A girl tries to unburden herself by way of a virtual friendship on Facebook.
The artlessness of the students is echoed by young detectives detailed to investigate rumours of foul play, not unreasonable in upwards of seven deaths in a tight community. The truth is revealed well before the end and all that remains is resolution, which is interesting enough to merit a better book.
I could reach no rapport with the characters, bland and undifferentiated, and there was only some mild curiosity concerning the questions of suicide or murder, and if the latter, the motivation. That bullying is a focus is in the event no more than a side issue when so much of the story is devoted to turgid introspection where guilt can be relieved only by the horror of domestic violence.