A gripping, multilayered debut in the tradition of Tana French and Donna Tartt about four friends, an empty manor, and a night that will follow them for the rest of their lives
It’s the summer of 1996 and school’s out forever for Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em. When Andy’s alcoholic mother predicts the apocalype, the four teenagers decide to see out the end of the world at a deserted manor house, the site of a historic unsolved mystery. There they meet David–charming and unreliable, he seems to have appeared out of nowhere.
David presents an irresistible lure for both Andy and Peter and complicates the dynamics of their lifelong friendship. When the group learns that a diamond necklace, stolen fifty years ago, might still be somewhere on the manor grounds, the Game—half treasure hunt, half friendly deception—begins. But the Game becomes much bigger than the necklace, growing to encompass years of secrets, lies, and, ultimately, one terrible betrayal.
Meticulously plotted and gorgeously written, Before the Ruins is a page-turner of the highest order about the sealed-off places in our pasts and the parts of ourselves waiting to be retrieved from them.
I confess I am really enjoying the recent trend in stories in the “domestic suspense” genre, and this one from Victoria Gosling is on of the best I’ve read. Four friends whose neat but sometimes volatile and confusing world is disrupted by the introduction of a fifth one summer. And then, as suddenly as it began, it ended. When that fifth man re-enters their lives three years later, everyone comes away changed forever.
The juxtaposition of the present time story with the past can be tricky, but this author knits the two smoothly into a taut, suspenseful tale that I read in one day. None of the characters are particularly likable, but that doesn’t really matter here. What *does* matter is the telling of the story that binds them all together, and Gosling does that magnificently. Fans of Lisa Jewell and Eve Chase will find that Gosling meets or exceeds their skill at spinning stories that hang about your brain for days after finishing. Well done.
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Published By: Henry Holt & Co.
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy