by Ava Pierce
Published December 31, 2020
by Hodder & Stoughton
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
LOCKED DOORS DON’T KEEP SECRETS SAFE
LOCK YOUR DOORS
Caitlin has been having an affair for nearly a year when the country enters lock down. Suddenly, seeing her lover, Daniel, without alerting her husband becomes almost impossible. When she does manage to sneak to his home, she finds him lying in a pool of his own blood, dead.
Ali is a just-about-functioning alcoholic, recently let go, and feeling rather lonely. Each day she goes to her local shop to buy her permitted two bottles of wine, leaving food parcels for neighbors on her way home. While keeping an eye on what they are up to, of course.
Caitlin can’t tell a soul about what she has discovered for risk of losing her family. Little does she know that Ali has noticed her coming and going, and that she will be drawing her own conclusions. As Caitlin delves into the life of the man who said he loved her, she finds that maybe she didn’t really know him at all. But if she wants to avoid suspicion, she needs to keep digging until they find Daniel’s killer. Because the doors may be locked, but everyone’s secrets are starting to leak out .
I was worried that the first book I read set in the pandemic would be tiring and hackneyed. I needn’t have worried after reading Ava Pierce’s masterful handling of a topic that could have been so much gloomier.
Rather than describing the plot, as it is succinctly detailed in the description, I’d like to describe how the author handled this very touchy subject.
Instead of the book being “about” the pandemic, she has used the worldwide health crisis (as it was handled in England) as a backdrop to a suspenseful murder mystery. What’s worse than trying to hide an affair? Trying to maintain the affair in a lockdown! And what’s more suspicious than creeping into a dead man’s house? Creeping in during a lockdown!
We are first introduced to Ali, who while pretty much a recluse to begin with, is now an alcoholic recluse, with an inquisitive mind, and even more of a nosey neighbor now that she’s forced to stay in. At first, I really disliked this character, and felt her “voice” was all wrong. But as the narrative deepens, you see that she’s just a lost soul, really in need of a purpose in life. Caitlin thinks she has lockdown all figured out, creating a faux exercise routine as her excuse to see her lover. And once he’s dead, she’s got to figure out how to handle her pretend exercise routine, without drawing the suspicion of her family. She needn’t have worried, as they get caught up in their own dramas.
Pierce has managed to sprinkle details of the pandemic throughout the book, without it swallowing the story. If you’re like me, almost any book or movie with large crowds, people sharing food, or touching each other, gives you pause at the moment. But Stay Home doesn’t feel as foreign – or as dystopian – as it would have a year ago. The author reminds us of so many situations that have changed since March, but the scenarios flow smoothly and are so well integrated into the plot, they are seamless.
Beyond that, it’s just a darn good story! After Ali’s long narrative, the book starts to take off, and things just get worse and worse for poor Caitlin, as she tries to salvage first her marriage, and then her family. You’ll think you know what happens next, but you won’t be ready for the twists!
I can’t wait to see what this author does next!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an advance reader’s copy for review.