When Christy and Joe get the chance to buy their dream house at a bargain price, they think all their Christmases have come at once, however it isn’t long before Christy begins to realise something isn’t quite right. Why would the Frasers spend thousands renovating the property only to leave one day without notifying anyone?
Christy becomes increasingly suspicious when her friendly overtures to the neighbours are consistently rebuffed and as she observes them from a distance, she begins to realise there are undercurrents of tension between them. Tensions that are obviously related to the Frasers. Yet, as Christy’s obsession with finding out the truth intensifies, she fails to notice the strain her actions are putting on her own marriage.
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is an intriguing psychological thriller which had me totally hooked even though there didn’t seem to be that much going on. Told in the dual narrative style, we have alternate chapters from Christy, our new home owner, and Amber Fraser, the former home owner. There is also a time difference in that Christy’s story is in the present and Amber’s begins about eighteen months prior with the two eventually converging. The dual narrative works really well in that we end up with a complete contrast in how some events happened and how some characters are perceived.
When Christy first moves in the neighbours are really unfriendly and no one seems to want to discuss the Frasers. Then, there is the surly Rob who Christy likens to a bear due to his unkempt appearance and whom everyone else seems to be shunning. While Christy is determined to get to the truth, she becomes a little obsessive and ends up making things even worse. It seems everyone loved Amber and Christy is just not in the same league.
The beautiful Amber is by far the most intriguing character in the story and while everyone wants to have her as a friend, she is eventually revealed to be highly manipulative. As Amber takes her neighbours under her wing, her actions initially seem caring but then you begin to realise Amber is playing games with them. Although Amber is supposed to be starting a family with her much older husband, she wastes no time in beginning an affair with Rob Whalen. The contrast between the surly man we know in Christy’s timeframe and the handsome man Amber seduces is very striking, so it becomes apparent the affair is the key.
Candlish does a great job of slowly peeling back the layers to reveal Amber’s true character as she paces everything perfectly and even manages to keep her readers guessing on more than one point. The people in Amber’s life seems clueless to her manipulations but I actually found myself wondering if her husband was as oblivious as he was pretending to be since some of his later actions seemed to imply he was well aware of what kind of woman he had married. However, beware the woman scorned, as Amber’s final deed is particularly destructive and downright appalling in nature.
Unfortunately, Christy seems rather dull in comparison to Amber but I suspect that is deliberate since no one seems to be able to shine as brightly as Amber. Christy and her husband do learn an important lesson though in that a perfect house does not a perfect family make, and they should appreciate what they have rather than yearning for more.