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At 30, Londoner Joanna still spends her free time with her Oxford college friends, now with burgeoning careers and all on the cusp of real adulthood. Lucas, Joanna's closest friend and prolonged crush, inherits Stoneborough Manor, a huge and imposing house in the Cotswold countryside filled with priceless art, where all the college friends are to spend every weekend together. The first visit, on New Year's Eve, doesn't start well, as the Londoners get lost. To Joanna, the manor has a threatening and unsettling aura, and indeed, the big, dark, vaguely confusing house with its secrets and disappointments works well as an allegory for moving into the responsibilities and fears of growing up. Joanna and her friends proceed to deal with the unknown, some well, others destructively. A focus on the shifting relationships and loyalties doesn't leave much room for plot, but Joanna's voice is engaging, and Londoner Whitehouse, making her debut, manages to generate a lot of interest in the somewhat flat Four Weddings and a Funeral-esque ensemble: she gets the insecurities, pedigrees and Cotswold locale spot on. Unfortunately, this promising first effort features a truncated ending that is less evocative than jarring. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.