A fascinating psychological thriller where a horrific event evolves into a complex tale of tragedy, friendship, parental love and redemption.
An eleven-year-old boy bullied by two girls decides to get revenge by setting fire to them in the school’s playground. One lives, heavily burned, the other, Julie, dies. A reporter, relentless in his search for the father of the boy who had gone into hiding after the trial. The reporter needs both father and son to complete his story about the boy’s cruelty. A divorced woman with two children, receiving an inheritance from an old lady she has never met before: a beautiful Cotswold cottage. Why should someone she does not know gift her Primrose Cottage? What are the hidden secrets?
It is November 1966 when John Michael decides to get even with the two 14-year-old girls that are bullying him: he walks into the school’s playground to take revenge in the most horrible way you could imagine by throwing petrol all over them before setting them alight. The other children are horrified as John Michael walks away calmly. The media is hysterical and the reports of the trial are sensational; there is not a soul in Britain who hasn’t heard of John Michael and his father. The father struggles to cope with what his son has done and how to live on after such a terrible event. How do you get on with your life and can you find a place to live in peace? That is what the rest of John Michael’s father’s life will turn out to be: a daily coming to terms with the acts of his son and the consequences of that act on his and his son’s life. It is only after many years and as many chapters that we fully discover the truth and the impact of what happened.
More than 40 years later Ellen receives a letter which holds a request to contact a firm of Solicitors. Ellen, a single mother of 10-year-old Megan and 8-year-old Harry, is the manager of Langmere Grove Holiday Park in West-Sussex. She has always had a difficult relationship with her mother who is now living in a care home due to dementia. Is it because her mother was also a single parent? Ellen has no idea who her father is or what happened to him. The contents of the letter relate to the last will of Eudora Jane Nash who has left her lovely Cotswolds house Primrose Cottage in Oakham to Ellen. Ellen is perplexed. Why did the old lady leave her a home? They were not related, nor had they ever met. In fact, Eudora Jane Nash is a complete stranger to Ellen. It gets even more intriguing when Ellen, upon entering Primrose Cottage for the first time, receives a visitor who is obviously lying. He turns out to be a reporter named O’Halloran.
What is O’Halloran looking for and why is he so insistent? He is desperate for information which he hopes will be revealed somewhere within the papers belonging to the late Eudora Nash. But Ellen has no idea what he is talking about nor, for that matter, what the connection is between her and Eudora Nash. Was she perhaps a friend of her mother’s? Perhaps Sam knows it, the owner of Langmere Grove, who is like a father to Ellen. He and his wife Mary took in Ellen’s mother and helped her raise Ellen. But when asked, Sam is clearly unwilling to tell Ellen anything about Eudora. Ellen knows Sam is keeping something from her. She is determined to find out and for that matter, to discover who Eudora was and why she left her home to Ellen. Then we are set back to the 1970s where a Professor is one of the few who offers “unfailing controversial support” to John Michael by helping him to start a new life after his imprisonment.
Who is this Professor? What is his motive in helping the boy who has been condemned by the world? His father tried to stay away to be able to build a life in peace after having been harassed by the media, in particular, O’Halloran. He even took on a new name, Martin Adams. Even though Martin Adams did his best to stay hidden, O’Halloran was able to find him and disturb his life once again. And now O’Halloran is pestering Ellen. Apparently, he is still not satisfied with everything he has found out and needs more but to what purpose? To feel important? Ellen is determined to find out what is going on and, if necessary, to confront Sam. She has taken Eudora’s laptop with her – but it reveals no significant information and is yet again a dead end. Will she come to learn the connection between herself and Eudora – and will we, the readers, discover how it is all intertwined with the life of the man who performed the gruesome act aged eleven?
The Hidden Legacy is a fascinating and intriguing read that kept me captivated until the touching end. It has all the ingredients which I love in a book: a murder and a mystery, a legacy, and unknown connections between people and events waiting to be solved. Graham Minett has cunningly woven a tale of tragedy, of cause and consequence. It was a very pleasant read although, in the end, you will have to put some of the pieces of this puzzle together as the author has left a few things to the reader’s imagination. I loved reading about Ellen. Let’s face it, wouldn’t we all be thrilled when we were bequeathed a beautiful Cotswold cottage? Although it sets out with a horrific event, the book tells us a complex story of friendship, of redemption and the bond between parents and their children while even touching the subject of nurture and nature. It is a compelling and gripping read that, strange as it might sound, is at the same time uplifting.
About the Author
GJ (Graham) Minett was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge. He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex (where he and his family now live) before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’. Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. Graham Minett’s second book is ‘Lie in Wait‘ – my review.
|Publisher||Twenty7 (25 Aug. 2016)|