This is a first novel for Tess, who is a music teacher, traveller and writer. It could be classified as a horror story, although the suspenseful ending relates to being caught and imprisoned by a cult leader and his soldiers. The setting is a small country town in Australia, where everyone knows each other’s business.
The main character, Imogen, has just returned home from a trip away. She is a photographer, and has been shooting overseas. Her mother Marella has previously been obsessed by cleanliness in the home, so it is with much amazement that Imogen finds a filthy house on her return.
Her young sister Clem, also lives in the house, and is a dancer. Over dinner, Clem says that her mother has joined a UFO group. The girls give her a hard time over how much money she is giving them. The atmosphere in the house is quite unpleasant.
Marella leaves the girls a note to say she is going away for a while and not to worry. Clem has been asked to audition for the W.A. Ballet Company and when she is successful, Imogen feels she must support her. She needs a job to do this and takes a position at the local supermarket.
It is here she meets Henry, and they develop a relationship. Suddenly, Henry’s sister Aggie disappears. As Imogen and Henry begin to ask people about Aggie, they discover that she has been seeing the leader of the cult and they decide to investigate further. It is not a UFO cult but a pseudo religious cult that uses soldiers to enforce the word of God.
Together with Clem and a friend, Imogen and Henry invade the place where the cult holds people, a place where they hope that can find their friend and their mother, and where they discover the chilling reality that people can be swayed by a charismatic leader, and can stand by while members are physically and sexually abused.
This is a suspenseful story that is a little disjointed in places and the characters don’t quite win your support. However, if you enjoy a mystery and a thriller rolled into one, then you won’t be disappointed.