Half Broken Things
Morag Joss
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Half Broken Things
Morag Joss
336 pages
July 2006
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Half Broken Things.

CWA Silver Dagger Award winner Morag Joss (Funeral Music, Fruitful Bodies, Fearful Symmetry) delivers one heck of an amazing psychological suspense novel in Half Broken Things. The story revolves around the sixty-four-year-old housesitter Jean. She knows she is nearing mandatory retirement age, and her last job is a long nine-month stay at the isolated country house, Walden Manor. Her meager and solitary childhood is known right from the start.

“Father was usually quiet too. When I think back to the sounds of the house in Oakfield Avenue where I grew up, I do not remember voices. I think we sighed or cleared our throats more often than we spoke words. I remember mainly the tick of Father’s longcase clock in the dining room we never ate in, and then after the clock had gone, a particular silence throughout the house I thought of as a shade of grey. And much later when I was an adult, still looking there after Mother, the most regular sound was the microwave. It pinged a dozen times a day. In fact, until recently, whenever I heard a certain tone of ping, in a shop or somewhere like that, I would immediately smell boiling milk. But when I was a child there was just the clock, with silences in between. Mother had few words herself. She often went about the house as if she were harbouring unsaid things at great personal cost, with a locked look on her mouth.”
Jean soon acts as if the place was her own home: going into wine cellar, going into the locked rooms that she was told not to go into. Then through a series of convenient coincidences (an ad placed by Jean looking for a made-up son), petty thief Michael – who Jean would eventually consider as this “ lost son” - hooks up with the pregnant Stephanie, who just found the gumption to leave her abusive boyfriend.

They both move in with Jean and you have a triumvirate of losers living as a close-knit family. The suspense builds as the story goes through a series of flashbacks with Jean to her dysfunctional family: showing her psychological abuse. By the end of the book, Jean’s fantasy world begins to unravel as the owners of Walden Manor are close to coming home and someone from Michael’s past comes into the picture, setting up for a shocking and satisfying ending.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Bobby Blades, 2005

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