There’s a stranger in Claudia Morgan-Brown’s house. The Birmingham, England, social worker has what should be an enviable life: Newly married to a wealthy naval officer, she lives in a palatial house and is step-parenting his adorable twin boys. And after a string of heartbreaking miscarriages with her ex, she’s finally expecting a baby girl of her own. But there’s a problem: the new live-in nanny, Zoe Harcomb. Although this apparent super-nanny has a perfect resume, something about Zoe—a childless woman who “stares longingly at [Claudia’s] pregnant stomach”—just doesn’t seem right.
The tension ratchets up as Claudia’s husband prepares to leave on a long submarine voyage, and a series of brutal murders of local pregnant women stumps local law enforcement. The novel’s narration is shared among Claudia, Zoe and Lorraine Fisher, a police officer investigating the murders even as her marriage threatens to fall apart and her teenage daughter announces she’s leaving home. As these women’s lives become more entangled, the novel reveals the raw need and desperate yearning that often lie behind the idealized state of motherhood. Zoe wonders, “Would [Claudia] understand that I probably want—no, need her baby more than she does?”
Samantha Hayes, author of four previous suspense novels, builds tension skillfully, revealing and concealing just enough to keep readers riveted. The story’s twists and turns recall such female-focused suspense tales as Rebecca and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, culminating in a final revelation that is truly jaw-dropping. But it’s the novel’s use of iconic female fears—the loss of a beloved child, an intimate enemy under one’s own roof—that really get under the reader’s skin. The events of this plot may be lurid, but the emotions they’re grounded in are very real.