Through the intimacy of her narrative voice and the depth and deftness of her characterizations, Joss directs the play-acting of this pseudofamily into deadly serious territory, forcing the reader to weigh the human need for love against the desperate measures people will take to protect it.
The New York Times
I haven't read the Scottish-born Morag Joss's three mysteries set in Bath and featuring cellist Sara Selkirk, but if they're half as good as Half Broken Things, her first stand-alone psychological-suspense novel, readers should scoop them up. Joss has one of the freshest, keenest mystery-writing voices to come out of the United Kingdom since Ruth Rendell creeped us out with a string of characters as cozy as Aunt Flo and as unhinged as Vlad the Impaler.
The Washington Post
British author Joss's brilliantly conceived, finely executed novel, which captured the CWA's Silver Dagger Award, offers psychological suspense of the highest order. The catalyst for a trio of misfits is Jean, a 64-year-old housesitter on the verge of forced retirement. Her last assignment is lengthy: nine months alone at an isolated country house, Walden Manor, whose wealthy owners are abroad for an extended stay. Jean's first casual liberties with the house are almost accidental. Then, as she begins to think of the place as home, she becomes bolder. She welcomes Michael, a middle-aged, less-than-successful thief, who becomes her "lost" son, and the pregnant, unmarried and abused Steph, who becomes her daughter-in-law. In Joss's capable hands, these three lonely losers begin to craft a family life. Even as they use another's property to do so, they're as appealing as they are appalling. How long will their idyll last? How far will they go to preserve it? What crimes are too great? This is a must-read. Joss is also the author of the Sara Selkirk mystery series (Fruitful Bodies, etc.). Agent, Jean Naggar. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
British suspense writer Joss (Funeral Music) won CWA's Silver Dagger Award for this novel about Jean, a housesitter being forced into retirement. With nothing to lose and nowhere to go, Jean moves into the master bedroom of the lovely Walden Manor, her final posting. She dons the owners' clothes, raids the wine cellar, and assembles an impromptu family that includes Michael, a petty criminal, and Steph, a pregnant woman searching for a place to belong. Joss does a credible job of showing how Jean and her guests at Walden Manor find a sense of community they've never before experienced. But then tension mounts as the owners' return draws ever closer and the interlopers become more desperately ensconced in their borrowed home. Jean pleads for understanding for herself and her fellow cohorts, but they are so cold-blooded in their pursuit of happiness that the reader may end up racing through the story as much to get away from these horrifying people as to find out what happens to them. Recommended where suspense fiction is in demand.-Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Intriguing interior narrative by British crime novelist Joss explores the deviant pleasures of the solitary elderly housesitter. At age 64, Jean, a housesitter for the Town and Country agency, has reached retirement age. Her final job as caretaker of the Walden Manor in Bath allows her to take stock of her paltry spinster existence as an unloved, adopted daughter who creates imaginary characters who care about her. When Jean accidentally shatters a teapot full of keys, she is able to unlock rooms in the beautiful old house where she will reside from January to September; in her extreme loneliness, she begins to assume the identity of the inhabitants, shedding her old clothes and inventing a grown son she once gave up for adoption and for whose return she advertises in a women's magazine. Two-bit hustler Michael answers the ad, bringing with him a young pregnant woman he has just met, Steph, who is fleeing her abusive boyfriend, and the misfits make themselves happily at home over several months. Joss further complicates the mix by introducing the miraculous birth of the baby in the house, and then its mysterious death, followed by Steph's determination to become a babysitter for a toddler whose mother is a divorced solicitor. Yet Michael's past as a thief of religious objects catches up with him when a provincial curate comes to visit, and the threesome's idyllic front of normalcy collapses abruptly. These are damaged characters in an unforgiving class-conscious society, and despite the hiatus of grace they find together, Joss punishes Jean for her lifelong docility and selflessness. The ending, depressingly, slides into a doomed futility. A grim, courageous work that crosses into dark,interior regions American readers rarely dare to tread.
"Psychological suspense of the highest order ... brilliantly conceived.... This is a must-read."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Surrealistic, unsettling ... made spookier by Joss' polite, poetic prose."—Entertainment Weekly (A-)