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The Reunion: A Novel

The Reunion: A Novel

4.2 5
by Sue Walker

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In 1977, Innes Haldane was one of seven extremely dysfunctional teenagers incarcerated in the Unit, an avant-garde psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Edinburgh. There, she and her fellow inmates were forced into each other's lives, exposed to each other's pasts, and now share a collective memory.

Since then, they have spent their adult lives trying to


In 1977, Innes Haldane was one of seven extremely dysfunctional teenagers incarcerated in the Unit, an avant-garde psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Edinburgh. There, she and her fellow inmates were forced into each other's lives, exposed to each other's pasts, and now share a collective memory.

Since then, they have spent their adult lives trying to forget the unspeakable acts that sent them there and the terrible secret that occurred behind its walls . . . until a message on Innes's answering machine with a voice from the past interrupts the quiet life she has tried so hard to make for herself. There is a murderer stalking the former inmates, and the only way for them to save themselves is by reuniting — no matter what the emotional cost. If the killer doesn't shatter their new lives, the memories being brought back to light just might.

Now Innes must contact the others before someone else finds them first. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
“Compelling characters, an interesting story, and sharp writing.”
Daily Record (Scottland)
“The story has a ring of authenticity as she evokes the psychosis of humanity.”
Chicago Tribune
“Walker turns a solid basis of crime knowledge into a sharply written exploration of a seriously problematic area.”
Publishers Weekly
A shared, violent past haunts former patients of an Edinburgh adolescent psych unit in BBC reporter Walker's uneven debut thriller. In 2004, Innes Haldane, a graduate of the Unit, learns of the death of one of her former Unit friends, Isabella "Abby" Velasco. Flashing between the present and 1977, when the teens were institutionalized together, Walker shows her characters as deeply troubled kids and as variously disturbed adults plagued by guilty memories of a camping trip gone wrong. What happened back then? And does it spell death today? When Innes leaves her London job to look into Abby's alleged suicide, she learns that just before her death, Abby had started seeing Danny Rintoul, an accused rapist and former occupant of the Unit. Danny, she quickly learns, is another suspected suicide. Meanwhile, heartless stockbroker Alex Baxendale, another Unit grad, resists uncovering long-buried secrets, and Dr. Simon Caldwell, also a former Unit resident, is looking for clues to his daughter's kidnapping. Walker gives her characters so many secrets-and keeps hinting around at that old, big one-that it can be exhausting. She characterizes and summarizes hurriedly, rushing from one revelation to the next, and the psychology is often shallow (bad behavior is blamed on bad parents and bad therapy; redemption is found in confession and good therapy). But the ending offers many grisly surprises. Agent, Patty Moosbrugger. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Walker's cleverly plotted novel resembles a locked-room mystery in that all of the suspects are known from the beginning. The group implicated is made up of the eight residents of "the Unit," a 1970s experimental psychiatric program for troubled but highly intelligent adolescents in Edinburgh, Scotland. Set in 2004, this compelling story uses case notes, flashbacks, and conversations as it gradually reveals the details of a 1977 event that has tied the group inextricably together and cast a shadow over their outwardly successful lives. In her debut novel, Walker, a London-based investigative journalist for BBC television, has created complex, believable characters at two pivotal times in their lives-as unstable, angry, but sympathetic teenagers and as adults in mid-life, once again in crisis as events force them to confront their shared past. This is a suspenseful, satisfying read. Although the characters' angst at times veers toward the melodramatic, Walker does a deft job of tying things up and justifying their extreme feelings and actions. Recommended for public libraries.-Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Middling debut thriller about a group of troubled teenagers and the dark secret that stalks them after they become adults. What awful deed took place by the shores of Loch Fyne oh-so-many years ago? Walker, a BBC investigative journalist, will remind her readers again and again that something tragic indeed happened on that outing to the Scottish Highlands in the late 1970s. The perpetrators were a group of disturbed teenagers lodged at The Unit, a mental home near Edinburgh. In the chapters set way back when, tensions among the gang are clearly ready to combust. Danny Rintoul is a child rapist. In her manic phases, pyromaniac Lydia Young explodes, threatening to torch the place. Alex Baxendale steps boldly out of the closet and launches an affair with a woman on the staff. Innes Haldane is less troubled, more treatable, and thus, by the time she's an adult, one of the group's better-adjusted graduates. But whatever happened in the Highlands claims its due years later, first on Innes, then on all the others. A former member of the group leaves Innes a phone message that goes unanswered. Then the caller turns up dead. Shortly after that, another group member dies, an apparent suicide. And then someone kidnaps yet another former member's child. The author's '70s and present-day plot lines circle each other like jets in a drawn-out holding pattern. Like a good flight attendant, she parses out clues to her passengers and keeps promising that something big is coming. But it's not enough to prevent riders (or readers) from growing weary. Alternating points of view and characterizations that don't go beyond basic psychiatric diagnoses keep empathy, and thus suspense, at bay. The ending doesdeliver: the awful deed was indeed awful. Cuts from character to character and one year to another make for a choppy ride. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger as sub-agent for Teresa Chris

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.06(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Reunion
A NovelChapter One

Half-seven. Early home for a Monday night. Keys and shopping were dumped at the kitchen door as she wandered over to open the living room windows. Let some of the precious, hint-of-spring air from Primrose Hill wash into her home. The answering machine blinked once. She hit the message button and turned up the volume, heading back to the kitchen for a well-earned ice-cold glass of white from the fridge.

The hesitant, familiarly deep voice boomed throughout the house.

"Innes? Innes, it's Isabella. Isabella Velasco. I ... I ... don't ask me how I got hold of you ... I ... we live quite close you know, would you believe? God, you sound just the same. Just the same! Look ... please don't be angry ... I need to talk to you ... see you. Can you call me as soon as you can? My number is seven fi -- "

She smashed a bleeding hand on the stop button and threw herself into the window seat, blind now to the beauty of the evening outside, watching instead the blood dripping its way onto the rug beneath her. She staggered to the kitchen for a tea towel to act as bandage, ignoring the broken glass on the floor, the overturned wine bottle by the sink.

Back at the phone, she put trembling fingers to the message button. And played the tape back. Six times.

To make sure that she wasn't in a nightmare.

Chapter Two

She'd always preferred the suited, smart, self-contained corporate cases to the individual, down-at-heel, outwardly sad ones. Like the man sitting before her this morning.

"So if you'll just hand over all your credit cards, the checkbooks, and your debit card, and sign here."

She watched as he took his great rough paw -- a builder's hand and irreplaceable tool of his (former) trade -- and signed his financial affairs over to her for at least the next three years. Not for the first time did she scent the mixture of a Dutch-courage-stiff-whiskey and too many cigarettes for eleven in the morning. The man's hand shook slightly. It had to be the worst day of his life. And she wasn't enjoying it much either. It had been some time since she'd had to deal with a "client" face-to-face. She eschewed, indeed forbade, in her hearing, her junior staff using their preferred "our next victim" for those sorry souls who found themselves in this building. It was disrespectful, she told them.

She decided to close the interview with this particular sorry soul. "All you need to know about your bankruptcy and dealing with the Official Receiver's office is in this leaflet. We have a lot of staff longterm sick at present so I'll be handling your affairs for the time being, although that will change when my assistants get back. Any queries in the next few weeks? My number's written at the top there. Next to my name. Innes Haldane."

She gathered papers and stood up, directing the man from the interview room toward the lifts, nodding at his mumbled thanks.

Back in the privacy of her office, she poured herself a cup of overstewed coffee, allowing herself a couple of minutes to glance at the mayhem that was midmorning Bloomsbury, five floors below. Buses and cars nose-to-tail. Tourist hordes heading for the nearby British Museum in much the same formation as the traffic, the neverending hum of pneumatic drills buzzing up their vibrations from street level. Perfect! She had the beginnings of a killer headache already.

She turned away and sat down heavily at her desk, surveying the lists of tasks for the overworked day ahead. She ran tentative fingertips over the two-week-old scar on her left hand. The wineglass had cut deep. Funny she'd never felt any pain until hours later.

She shoved the memory from her mind -- she was good at that -- and turned to her diary. She was beginning to heartily despise this job. True, it wasn't to be sniffed at. Dealing with the debtors of the world in the ordered, usually distant way that was incumbent on a senior member of the Official Receiver's office was structured, clinical, and, at her level, very well paid. Though the junior staff absences meant she'd be having quite a few face-to-face encounters with clients. Too close for comfort perhaps. During this past year or so she'd already forced herself to admit that she was becoming less and less able to cope with the "people side" of her job. And that was maybe why she enjoyed her seniority. The more paper-pushing and remote decision-making, the better.

Three hours later she allowed herself a stroll to the British Museum courtyard, taking one of the last vacant benches, warmed by the sunshine. She pulled her sushi box and a copy of her local newspaper from her bag, checking her watch and generously allotting herself precisely twenty-five minutes for lunch.

A quick scan-read of the local paper was all she usually made time for, but for some unknown reason today, she managed to linger on the news section. On the third reading, she was sure there was no mistake.


The body of a woman was found floating in the swimming pool of the Belsize Sports Centre last Tuesday evening. Staff were alerted by a young mother who had attended her regular women-only swimming lessons.

The dead woman has been named as 42-year-old Isabella Velasco, of 12 Belsize Park Square, a Scots-born leading dental surgeon working in various practices across London and a university departmental head. Both her wrists had been cut and there had been a significant loss of blood. The pool is now closed for the foreseeable future as police and sports centre staff examine the area.

A police spokeswoman refused to confirm reports of suicide but stated that 'we are not looking for anyone else in relation to this incident.'

An inquest is to be held at St Pancras Coroner's Court on Friday morning.

The Reunion
A Novel
. Copyright © by Sue Walker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sue Walker is an investigative television journalist who has spent much of her time working on high-end crime-related documentaries. She has worked for the BBC and all of the U.K. networks on a range of prestigious programs. Born in Edinburgh, she now lives in London. The Reunion is her first novel.

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Reunion 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
seldombites More than 1 year ago
The Reunion is unpredictable and intriguing. The plot, which jumps back and forth in time, is quite complex. The writing is gripping and easy to read, the characters engaging and realistic. This book will have you thinking long after you are finished reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love a book I can't figure out what is going to happen next. This one really kept me guessing, although when I finished I realized there were all kinds of 'clues' along the way. Not usually my area of reading, but I completely enjoyed it and will recommend it to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Innes Haldane listens to her answering machine and is horrified to hear a desperate message from Isabella 'Abby' Velasco. Back in 1977, when Innes was only fifteen-years-old, she resided in an adolescent psychiatric unit in Edinburgh, known only as 'The Unit'. The Unit dealt with the most troubled of teens. Some of the teens were there for mental problems, others for violence. It was a dark time and place that Innes had forced herself to forget. .................... Innes never returned Abby's call and later learns that Abby died, apparently a suicide. Then others Innes knew from The Unit turns up dead or worse. Innes feels compelled to look into Abby's death and see if something more sinister is going on ... and if she could be next on someone's hit list. .................. ***** Sue Walker pens a dark and twisted psychological thriller that will keep you reading as quickly as you possibly can. I stayed up very late, promising myself that I would only read a few more pages, only to glance up at the clock to see another hour has past. Very intense! *****
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Adolescent Psychiatric Unit in Edinburgh, known just as the Unit, was a place where the most troubled teens would receive the mot innovative treatment for mental disorders. The class of 1977 contained youths with a wide variety of problems such as sexual deviancy, violent tendencies, and worse. When they were released, society hoped they would lead normal productive lives. As a whole the group did not stay in touch with one another, but a few formed a cell that gets in touch with each other every November 8th.--- Innes Haldane was a Unit patient, but never heard from her peers until out of nowhere Isabella Velasco called her; Innes never returned the call. A few weeks alter, Isabella was dead, ruled a suicide. Innes learns that another graduate Danny also apparently killed himself just before Isabella did. A hird Unit member almost died in the inferno that left her spouse and children dead; she might as well have been dead because her mind broke in the fire. Innes thinks this is too much coincidence as all these deaths are related, but how? Unbeknownst to Innes is that a heinous act during a camping trip as Unit members led to the present spate of killings and injuries.--- Sue Walker is a marvelous storyteller who masterly uses flashbacks as a key plot device that ironically enables the reader to know what Innes does not comprehend. THE REUNION is very atmospheric, dark and foreboding in a gothic Jane Eyre like way, but is clearly a psychological suspense that tantalizes the audience with what is really happening inside the minds of the key characters. Ms. Walker should receive Edgar consideration for this highly recommended book.--- Harriet Klausner