I was totally blown away by Tina Seskis’ One Step Too Far, full of twists and turns, looping backwards and forwards in time. I have to say that I enjoyed this one even more. Friends had told me about the cast of characters and difficulties keeping track – and maybe it did help that I read it in one glorious sitting – but I was left in no doubt that this is an author in total control of her craft.
The central event is a picnic near the Diana fountain in Hyde Park: seven friends since university days, now in their forties, come together for a reunion. Juliette lives comfortably – if not excitingly – with her newspaper editor husband, relying on her housekeeper, cleaner and gardener to keep her life in order. JoAnne prefers other people’s husbands. Sissy struggles to come to terms with the death of her husband. Natasha keeps up a facade, married to a children’s author who prefers to get his fun elsewhere. Siobhan is the spoilt little girl who aggravates everyone. Katie tidies up around them all, Camilla excels in organisational skills. This is a picnic which should never have happened, with all the tensions and secrets lying barely beneath the surface coming to a head as the prosecco flows, with tragic consequences.
The writing is quite wonderful, the characters getting under your skin and vividly drawn. The effortless conversational style reveals layers of secrets and twists in an extremely clever matter-of-fact way: the book moves from character to character quite seamlessly, and backwards and forwards through the history that brought them all to that point in their lives beside the Serpentine and beyond.
Her power of description is superb, sometimes catching you by surprise in its originality. One of my favourites?
The incriminations continued on in the downy dusk, where the air was soft and summery and there were no strangers to inhibit them, where the alcohol had finally dislodged stuck feelings, like years-old plaque set free by mouthwash.
Isn’t that wonderful? I loved some of the references to popular culture too – university days punctuated by Blind Date, leaving the children in the tender care of Jeremy Clarkson, easing US introductions by claiming a family relationship with Princess Diana.
And the ending is simply quite perfect. How often can you say that at the end of a book? I can’t wait to see what Tina Seskis does next.
My thanks to netgalley and Kirk Parolles for my advance reading e-copy. Tina Seskis has an excellent website for more information about her and her books: I particularly liked the background to the locations in One Step Too Far. At the time of reviewing, One Step Too Far is still available for Kindle at 99p: A Serpentine Affair is available in Kindle and paperback formats for a little more, but worth every penny.