The unfolding of this tale is agonisingly tense and slow. Almost too slow so that I found myself tagged with an almost irresistible urge to skip on to some action, but the writing is good, painting the characters with deep shades, layer upon layer.
Stella is housebound, imprisoned by the bars of her agoraphobia, in her isolated home. But the snow and ice are now also making it difficult for her husband, Max, to join her. Then she finds a shivering fifteen-year-old girl on her doorstep, wanting to come in. Against her better judgement and despite her fear of strangers, she unlocks the door for the girl who calls herself Blue. At first Blue claims to be Max’s daughter, then her stories change, and Stella would like to throw the child out into the snow, but cannot…
Interspersed in the narrative are flashbacks to three years previously when Stella worked for Max in his practice as a psychologist, and her case with the assessment of a father’s suitability for the custody of his daughter. The father, Lawrence Simpson, sends shivers up Stella’s spine, but her professional impartiality as she tries to give him every opportunity to validate his claim is severely strained.
The third layer in the sandwich is from the perspective of a disturbed beautiful young woman with a sexual fixation on her therapist, and the progressive intensity of her desire in each session.
The only level-headed character is Peter, the policeman, Stella’s ex-boyfriend, who is still in love with her.
I have to admit, it was well over halfway along that I actually began to enjoy the story and stopped muttering “oh, do get on with it!”