Durrant builds her thriller on the bones of a marriage that ends with the tragic death of one partner.
The remnants of dysfunction and abuse linger, bereaved wife Lizzie Hopkins sure that Zack is still alive. Despite proof that her husband has perished in a roadside crash, Lizzie is convinced
that he faked his death. The obsession begins with Zack Hopkins’s seduction of Lizzie Carter, a woman aware that she is not particularly attractive
and amazed that this handsome artist should choose her, their romance magical.
A librarian in London, Lizzie is happy to support her struggling artist husband, her sympathy engaged with his tales of a difficult childhood and abusive alcoholic father. Zack’s outbursts and need to control
are entirely forgiven by a wife who cares more for the well-being of others than herself. Over time, her penchant for caretaking irritates Zack, who wants his wife to have cleaner boundaries between herself and her sister, Peggy,
her elderly mother, and her best friend, Jane. Even her dog, Howard, Lizzie’s constant companion, interferes with Zack’s gnawing desire to be closer to his wife, the affection lavished on the animal a constant slight of his needs.
Over two years of marriage, Lizzie’s world gets smaller, the demands of her man more pervasive.
The only respite is Zack’s occasional forays to a cottage in Cornwall where he works on paintings, always on the cusp of a big sale to a gallery and certain success. His close college friends slip away as the newlyweds become more insular and private, Zack concentrating on his work. Lizzie learns how to behave around Zack through trial and error, careful not to upset him, constantly apologizing for stupid mistakes. But everything changes with Zack’s death on the night of the accident, Lizzie still reeling a year later, unable to function in a world without the handsome man who has given her life shape and meaning.
After the year of grieving, Lizzie is ready to travel to Cornwall and prepare the cottage for sale. It is in Cornwall that she senses something amiss: the absence of certain items from the cottage, his studio wrecked, blood-red paint splashed everywhere, his precious computer left behind, something he guarded ferociously and would never leave. Overwhelmed by a sense of Zack’s presence and now certain she is being watched, Lizzie begins accepts that he is not really dead. It becomes her mission to track his life, to follow whatever clues he may have left, certain she will find Zack. After an aborted attempt to express her belief that Zack is still alive to her sister and best friend, Lizzie pulls away, understanding finally that like the intimacy of her marriage, this journey of discovery is between her and Zack, not meant to be shared. She dresses in the clothes he bought for her
and wears makeup she normally disdains, waiting for Zack to come to her, conscious of his eyes on her.
In chapters alternating between Lizzie’s actions after Zack’s death and entries in his computer diary begun in 2009, the novel offers a chilling portrayal of the psychological effects of an abusive relationship, the deliberate seduction by a dominant personality and the partner who yearns to please, a symbiotic addiction steeped in obsession and warped perception. Lizzie
is still deeply tangled in the web of her marriage, half-asleep when faced with shocking revelations as well as the intrusive presence of a teenage girl Zack once tutored, a girl
who seems to know Zack almost as well as Lizzie. Unmoored by her discoveries and awakened fears of Zack’s intentions, Lizzie is nearly undone yet honest enough to acknowledge her own role in a relationship become a
folie a deux, still in thrall to a love with the power to destroy her.