Amber Cowie is a new voice on the domestic thriller-fiction stage and her second novel Raven Lane is one that sticks to your skin and makes you second guess your assumptions.
Leafy Raven Lane is a secluded cul-de-sac of five similar homes hidden above Fraser City, where resident realtor Kitty has been selling the ideal life for years. This veneer is abruptly shattered when Esme’s husband Benedict, while reversing quickly down the driveway on a run to the liquor store, hits and kills their neighbour, famous author Torn Grace, who was riding around the corner on his bicycle.
Aaron, Torn’s husband is devasted, and when intimate photos of Esme and Torn are found in Benedict’s car, he is arrested on suspicion of murder fueled by jealousy. Aaron retreats overseas to his position with Doctors Without Borders and the unravelling of lives begins before Benedict’s trial. The neighbourhood is shattered as the tragedy affects people very differently; what was Torn, Benedict or Esme to them? They all have a vested interest in righting what they perceive is wrong, and secrets that were never meant to surface, gain power and ultimate traction to fuel a terrible justice.
Esme, a one-time actress with an awful secret, has become a successful chef and owner of Dix-Neuf. She has nurtured her husband Benedict, a faded successful model, through his periods of rehab and relapses, but now he is using the restaurant’s success to bolster his failing agency. These small stresses and the one revelation of her husband’s horrendous infidelity is salt to Esme’s wounds. All the time as chaos swirls around her, Esme’s one focus is to shelter their daughter, Zoe from the ensuing maelstrom.
Throughout the novel, Esme finds solace and some understanding in reading Torn’s latest novel The Call. The realization that the disturbing progression of Torn’s story, the premise that there is something evil, a monster in us all, runs parallel to Cowie’s novel, ups the tension as it foreshadows disasters to come.
Raven Lane is to be published in November. Amber Cowie will be at the 2019 Whistler Writers Festival on Saturday, October 19th at 4:45 p.m., speaking on the Domestic Thriller Panel with moderator, Marsha Lederman. Find your tickets at www.whistlerwritersfest.com
Libby McKeever lives in Whistler and is a keen reader, retired youth librarian and currently a student in the SFU’s Writer’s Studio program.