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.
A tale monopolised by women and their obsession with babies. Men have no role here except as impregnators and if a male reader braves the initial stifling atmosphere of female fecundity he will be ultimately repulsed by the introduction of psychopathic horror.
In the foreground is a family: widowed Royal Navy officer with twin sons married to Claudia, the pregnant second wife who employs a nanny with impeccable references. The setting is affluent suburbia, a friendly community unmoved by mention of distant murders of a particularly misogynist nature where women are ripped apart and the fetus abstracted.
In suburbia life goes on: the school run, the antenatal clinic, coffee with other pregnant ladies. The narrative switches between characters: Claudia and the nanny (present tense, first person singular), the warring husband-and-wife team of detectives (past tense, third person). More than one person is playing a role but motivations are opaque, except for Claudia who is living only for the coming baby. With a number of miscarriages behind her, with her husband on duty in the Mediterranean, suspecting that her nanny represents some kind of threat, Claudia is in a fragile and vulnerable state.
The climax comes: the contractions, emergency calls, the twist - which is more of a catastrophic wrench. It took a long build-up, but well done, one admits grudgingly, feeling vaguely cheated, seeing the flaws. And then the final twist, which is a revelation par excellence. Definitely not a man's book. Too raw.