Sweet damage by Rebecca James

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Allen & Unwin. 2013. ISBN 9781742373010.
(Age 15+) Recommended. Mystery. Gothic. Tim Ellison is thrilled when he finds a cheap room to rent in a beautiful old mansion. His only worry is that Anna the young girl who owns the house and whose parents have tragically died is aloof and rather strange. Then weird things start to happen and Tim begins to wonder if he has made a mistake.
I was hooked from the first line:
I still dream about Fairview.
With its overtones of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, James has written a thrilling mystery that kept me reading quickly to find out what was going to happen and asking questions about whether Anna is mad and whether the house is sinister. With lots of red herrings thrown in and an odd assortment of characters, the tension builds up to an unexpected and very exciting climax.
While all the excitement of the mystery is engrossing, equally appealing is the character of Tim, the young man who is at the centre of the story and who relates what is going on. He is laid back, working at his father's restaurant, and seemingly without any ambition. He is trying to get over his obsession with Lilla, his ex-girlfriend who can't seem to keep out of his life although she declares that the romance is over. As Tim delves into Anna's family mystery, the reader can't help but empathise with Anna who has lost her parents in such a tragedy and who is just holding herself together as she deals with grief and depression.
This is definitely a story that could be classed as 'new adult', (publishers aiming at 18-25 year old bracket), but the sex is handled subtly and the mystery, Manly setting and characters are so good that it is likely to have wide audience appeal. I am now very tempted to find James' earlier book Beautiful malice since I enjoyed this one so much.
Pat Pledger