Pennance - Clare  Ashton An atmospheric psychological thriller cum drama/romance. This is one of the most effective uses of first person POV in lesfic I've read. The author takes us into the mind of the lead character Lucy and experience first hand her feelings of alienation, dread and guilt as she attempts to recover from a tragic accident.

In the first couple of chapters, Lucy's ruminations may sound like that of someone with paranoid delusion, but as more details are revealed, we start to get why she acts and thinks that way. Things (and Lucy) start to perk up once a neighbor (Karen) arrives and Lucy begins interacting with someone who doesn't look at her like a pitiable creature. Their relationship is well-developed and paced and thru Karen, the real Lucy before the accident occurred slowly emerges again.

There is a sinister presence, however, and hairy things happen. I must say the author managed to lead me astray with her red herrings. So the final reveal caught me way off guard. And Lucy's choice, and later Karen's choice, were heart-rending!

This book reminded me of those M. Night Shymalan movies (the good ones, at least). With just words, the author manages to conjur up for me vivid images of the eerie houses, manor and village and its creepy inhabitants as seen through the eyes of Lucy. But unlike Mr. Shyamalan's works, this book actually has an engaging story to tell.

Reading both of the author's books back to back, I can't help but compare the two. Both involve mysteries, though Pennance is darker. In 'After Mrs Hamilton', there were a great many characters and the plot was fairly convoluted, but I had the 'big reveal' figured out half way into the book. The romances were lovely though. In Pennance, the plot is much simpler, but the mystery worked better. And because there were just two lead characters, the romance was also developed better.

There are some things that the were left unexplained such as Karen and Jake's relationship, Ben's seemingly sudden about-face (from his earlier anti-gay prejudice) which ultimately leads to our heroines' HEA, and an epilogue couldn't hurt either--I just can't imagine our ladies thriving in that soul-sucking place aptly named