THE LONG WEEKEND
Gilly Macmillan (www.gillymacmillan.com)
They have been friends since childhood and every year they take a long weekend break to unwind and enjoy each others’ company. This year is the first since the death of Rob, so four couples have become three. As the women head to Dark Fell Barn, a remote place they’ve found on the web, the men find excuses to delay their arrival, leaving Jayne, Ruth and the much-younger Emily to have a bit of a girls’ night on Friday. When they arrive at the barn to discover no mobile signal and a road only passable by the farmer’s Land Rover, there’s one extra surprise: a note, seemingly from Rob’s wife, Edie, that puts the women on edge and the brakes on the weekend plans.
Your weekend starts here! I hope you have a great time! I didn’t come along because I know I’m not welcome. This is goodbye. I’m going away. But I wouldn’t want you to forget me.
By the time you read this, I’ll have killed one of your husbands.
At first, The Long Weekend seems like your average, run-of-the-mill thriller that doesn’t require anything from the reader beyond enjoying the ride. We are introduced to the three central characters – Jayne, Ruth and Emily – as they travel to Dark Fell and deal with what they find there. These women are friends by circumstance: their husbands have been friends since childhood, and the women have become part of the gang organically. As a result, they have little in common, though all are carrying their own burdens, and each has reason to believe that the letter might be more than one of Edie’s practical jokes. To compound this, the farmer who owns the barn in which they are staying is suffering from dementia, and has begun terrorising guests as everything he knows crumbles around him.
As the story progresses, alternating between multiple points of view – the three women, the farmer and his wife, Edie’s teenage daughter, Imogen – Macmillan soon makes it clear that this is not your average thriller as she pulls the carpet from under our feet on more than one occasion. Not everything is as it seems, and there is much more meat on the bones of The Long Weekend than we, as readers, originally anticipated. Suddenly we have a mystery to solve, and burst after burst of adrenaline as the revelations keep on coming. This is one of the most surprising books I have read in a long time, the kind of book that laughs in the face of your preconceptions and makes you realise that, no matter how well-read you are in any given genre, there is always an author and a book out here that will make you feel a bit less smug and reignite your love for the genre.
Macmillan’s characters pop off the page, in no small part because of the baggage they each carry. The book explores topics as diverse as childhood abuse and post-traumatic stress, dementia and the strain that having a baby can put on the marital relationship. Condensed into a single weekend, there’s hardly time to take a breath as Macmillan drives us relentlessly towards the climax. All of the clichés apply here: page-turner, edge-of-your-seat, rollercoaster; but in the end the most important thing about this novel is that it keeps us entertained from the opening page to the satisfying conclusion.
The Long Weekend is my first look at the work of Gilly Macmillan. I can say with some confidence that it definitely won’t be my last. Well-written, with a cast of characters that feel we already know and a finely-crafted mystery, it’s a fast-paced thriller that impresses and surprises at every turn. This is the domestic thriller at its finest and I can’t recommend it highly enough.