Linda Gillard's latest novel, House of Silence, is one of those books you'll put everything else on hold for. Twice, I sneaked back to bed after breakfast just to read a few more chapters before the day proper began - I didn't want to put the story aside, I wanted to find out what would happen next.
It's a very intricately plotted book, and I won't give you many details for fear of saying too much because part of the pleasure is just watching the story unfold, but it's about Gwen, a wardrobe mistress who works in film and television, who falls for Alfie, an actor. Gwen has no family, her mother dying young, her other relations then falling prey to their self-destructive, indulgent lifestyles, so when she gets the chance to join Alfie and his mother and sisters for Christmas at Creake Hall, their Elizabethan manor house in the depths of Norfolk, she's keen to go.
At Creake Gwen gets on well with capable Viv, the eldest of Alfie's siblings, and with the enigmatic Tyler, the cello-playing gardener, and she finds a kindred spirit in good-natured Hattie whose love of textiles and needlework matches her own, but there's something a bit 'off' about the set-up at Creake, something normal family tensions and rivalries wouldn't explain. As Gwen and Hattie set to work to complete a complicated piece of patchwork, a project that's been in progress for quite some years, Gwen finds disturbing evidence of subterfuge hidden within the quilt itself. What this deception has to do with Alfie and his mother - the famous children's writer Rae Holbrook - is something she will discover as the Christmas visit proceeds, but suffice to say there are revelations aplenty as the stitches which bound the family to their past are unpicked one by one.
You can rely on Linda for a highly readable book, a true page-turner which has a very neatly finished ending, and as I said, I didn't want to put it down. It's been described as "a country house mystery ... a family drama ... a gothic romantic comedy", and it's all of these; warm as one of Hattie's quilts, yet with a dark underside, its themes of memory, identity, and sense of self the layers in between, it's beautifully put together and enormously enjoyable (and it's an absolute bargain, to boot!).
(Edited to add: with reference to Liz's comment, and Linda's reply, if you haven't got a Kindle, you can still get the Kindle for PC 'app' which is free, and easy to download. Any Kindle books you then buy will appear on it, and while reading a book on a computer may not be ideal, it's not bad, and it enables you to search the book, highlight passages and make notes, just as on the Kindle itself.)