cover image Hold My Hand

Hold My Hand

Serena Mackesy. Soho Constable, $25 (351pp) ISBN 978-1-56947-533-1

British author Mackesy (The Temp ) deftly juggles two realities—the natural and the supernatural—in her compelling debut mystery. Desperate for income and a place to hide from an abusive ex-husband, Londoner Bridget Sweeny takes a job as the caretaker of a Cornish manor that’s now a hotel, Rospetroc. Accompanying Bridget is her young daughter, Yasmin, who soon becomes the confidante of a ghost—Lily, a nine-year-old refugee from Hitler’s blitzkrieg who vanished while boarding with Rospetroc’s long-dead mistress during WWII. Lily, who does palpable damage to the premises, becomes a second source of terror for Bridget. Mackesy’s stream-of-consciousness narrative successfully delineates these characters’ inner lives, though at first most function as stock figures—the mother frightened for her child, the brutal husband, the plucky best friend. But Mackesy’s prose—spare, taut and robust as haiku—lessens the implausibility of the novel’s resolution. (Nov.)