The past year has seen a rise in psychologically-based women-in-jeopardy type novels and Julia Crouch’s Cuckoo is one that stands out from the crowd.
Rose receives a call from her old best friend Polly; Polly’s husband has been killed in a motorcycle accident. Rose may not have seen Polly for some years and not spoken to her in a while, but the bonds of that friendship remain as strong as ever and Rose does what any good friend would do: she invites Polly and her two sons to stay. Where they came together in earlier more Bohemian days, Polly the rock chick remains in that mode, including her approach to mothering her two sons. However, Rose, married to artist Gareth and with two young daughters, has moved on to epitomise middle-class Waitrose-shopping respectability. When things start to go wrong, they can be explained as accidents, but soon they intensify and Rose starts to feel that she is losing her grip over the order in her own home and family. Could the reason be the presence of subversive behaviour?
Crouch’s assured debut delivers tension from the first pages and it escalates to a very chilling climax. Cuckoo is a novel that is hard to put down. Crouch has drawn the characters so that we are able to sympathise with them and our journey of discovery follows Rose’s own, as she starts to question Polly’s behaviour and motives. What is at hand here? We know that something dreadful will happen, but we don’t know what and that is what keeps those pages turning. This is absolutely nail-biting drama from Crouch.