There is one common element among all Catriona McPherson’s stand-alone novels. It is their uniqueness. You will never have read a story like any of them. I always ask myself the same question after I finish reading one. How in the world did Catriona ever think this up? I am never less than gobsmacked. A Gingerbread House fully lives up to the high standard that this author has set for a chilling tale. Nobody does a thriller better. I go into reading a Catriona McPherson stand-alone knowing that I will be kept on tenterhooks until the end.
I am hesitant to tell specifics of the story because readers need to experience all the moments leading up to the terrifying events for themselves, without preamble. I will prepare readers that the book begins with two storylines, and you might question at first what they will ever have to do with one another. But, ah, that’s the genius of Catriona McPherson. Watching the gap close between the two stories is enthralling. When the stories are just that one step away from colliding, the tension owns us, body and soul.
A Gingerbread House is a tale of how the holes in one’s life can lead to being blind to warning signs when the hope of filling that hole appears. Three women are featured in what they are looking for to make themselves whole. Ivy is looking for someone or something to love her, Martine is looking for information about a father she never knew, and Laura is looking for her dream life of a husband and children. They will each fall prey to scams playing on their vulnerabilities. What they think is the answer to their prayers will become a hell for survival. A gingerbread house indeed.
In the simultaneous storyline, Tash is a thirty-year-old woman who still lives with her parents, as does her brother Baz. The whole family works in the transportation business that Dad, Big Garry, started with just one truck and grew to an international company. Tash is happy enough with her situation in life until her father comes down with the flu, and Tash takes charge for a few days. In working her way through all the paperwork on her father’s desk, she makes a discovery that completely upends her world. In trying to understand it and right an unthinkable wrong, Tash will take a journey into unchartered territory, away from the comforts she has always known.
The two storylines seem unrelated at first, but I had faith that McPherson would bring them together at some point, although they were both intriguing on their own. If this book is your first Catriona McPherson read, be patient. The wait is worth it. So clever is this author, knowing how to build the suspense along parallel lines of intensity and join them in an aha moment. Of course, the Scottish setting is a favorite for me, and the author knows well how to use the setting to its best advantage, from its places of isolation to its community connections to the creepy edge of the unusual.
Every year I think that I’ve read my favorite Catriona McPherson stand-alone novel, and then the next year comes around bringing a new favorite. And so the pattern continues. A Gingerbread House is on top of the favorites for now. It is certainly a book that crime/mystery readers don’t want to miss if they want a riveting read. I wish I could read it again for the first time.
I’d like to thank NetGalley and Catriona McPherson and Severn House for an early read of this extraordinary book. The review is my honest opinion.