Broken River by J Robert Lennon review – wickedly plotted slowburner

A psychological thriller about a middle-class family’s ill-starred house move, from a writer at the top of his game

If Lennon’s previous novel, Familiar – the story of a mother trapped in a parallel dimension – lifted sci-fi tropes for a riddling exploration of parenthood, his equally brilliant new book borrows ingredients from horror and crime narrative to electrify a story of middle-class marital breakdown. After Karl, a sculptor, and Eleanor, a novelist, relocate upstate in a last-gasp attempt to cure him of his chronic philandering, their 12-year-old daughter, Irina, becomes obsessed with the history of their new home, a fixer-upper bought for a song after its previous owners were brutally murdered onsite a decade earlier. When she befriends an older girl who she’s convinced is the now-teenaged orphan who survived the attack, Irina – and everyone else – gets more than she bargained for. Fizzing with line-by-line propulsion and wickedly plotted with slow-burn complexity, this is a knockout, unmissable performance from a writer at the very top of his game.

Broken River by J Robert Lennon is published by Serpent’s Tail (£12.99). To order a copy for £11.04 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Anthony Cummins

The GuardianTramp

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