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Diane Janes was shortlisted and highly commended for the CWA’s Debut Dagger in 2006 for what has become this novel. (The Debut Dagger requires a submission of the first chapter, up to 3,000 words, plus a short synopsis.) Does it deliver on its promise? For this reader, that is a ‘yes’.
As a psychological thriller, The Pull of the Moon opens with a fifty-something Kate Mayfield in her current day circumstances, at a local swimming pool and pondering on how well people actually know one another. The question is acute in Kate’s mind as she has recently received a letter from the aged and frail Mrs Ivanisovic, asking her to visit. This is a woman she has not seen in many years, the mother of her long-dead teen boyfriend Danny, although they have exchanged Christmas cards. Kate chooses to sit on an appropriate response for some time, not wanting to relive her teenage years in the 1970s. But Mrs Ivanisovic’s next letter proves to be more demanding, potentially threatening, so Kate eventually complies.
The bulk of book is the unfolding of the story of one summer in the 70s when Kate, her boyfriend Danny and his best friend Simon took the opportunity to sojourn at the home of Simon’s elsewhere uncle. Kate was there for housekeeping; the boys were there for some landscape work in the gardens. Very soon, a fourth person joins them: Trudie, and in circumstances that lead to more secrets hidden. Trudie becomes the cat amongst the summertime pigeons: enjoying their fellow lives of 70s summertime ease, but also creating tension within the group. Trudie’s background is at first unknown, but her presence reflects Kate’s own in terms of lies told.
What unfolds is a tale that, years later, now exposes the lies of that summer communion for what they really were. Janes’s evocation of the 70s is superb; there is a real sense of time and place and culture: all accurately portrayed. (Oh, I remember it well.) And Janes never lets up on the tension at all; and it be can assured, was never as it seemed.
If you love a psychological thriller, or would simply love an excursion back into the tied-under-the-breast-midriff-showing-cheesecloth-shirt-times of the 70s, then this is for you. Ian McEwan’s Cement Garden came to mind when reading this: the close relationships of the young can be so misguided when adults are not present. Janes has another story to tell on this theme and nothing is pleasant in the end, in her fictional world of Kate’s life.
The Pull of the Moon was published on 8 April. My thanks to the publisher, Constable and Robinson, for the review copy.