cover image Gillespie and I

Gillespie and I

Jane Harris. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (528p) ISBN 978-0-06-210320-8

Harris’s haunting second novel finds Harriet Baxter, a single 30-something adrift after the death of her aunt, visiting the famous Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888. There she meets the Gillespies: Ned, a talented painter; his wife, Annie; their young children, Sybil and Rose; and Ned’s mother, Elspeth. In quick order Harriet becomes obsessively close to them, sitting for paintings, assisting Ned in his career, befriending Annie, and even helping take care of Sybil, whose increasingly disturbing behavior leads to the angelic Rose going missing while in her care. Months later, Harriet is unexpectedly arrested—for Rose’s murder. This is all presented through Harriet’s memoirs, written as an old woman in 1930s London and focused on the curious behavior of her maid, who may hold a mystifying connection to the Gillespie family. Harris (The Observations) succeeds with nuanced characters, including the mysterious Harriet, but takes too long to arrive at Harriet’s trial, the crux of the plot. Once there, however, the reader will be so thoroughly entrenched in the carefully arranged details and the courtroom’s gripping drama that there will be no turning back. Agent: Curtis Brown Group Ltd. (Feb.)