Review: The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

6th February 2014

pg1*I received this book from the publisher Bourbon Street Books in exchange for an honest review.

Jessica Mayhew’s psychotherapy office is a sanctuary of sorts. She goes in, listens to her patients, and goes home. Her life is routine, and she likes it that way. But her routine is disturbed when her husband admits to sleeping with a younger woman in what he says was a one-night stand. Her teenage daughter Nella has pulled away from her. And at work, a new client, Gwydion Morgan, an actor and the son of famous film director Evan Morgan, unsettles Jessica.

Gwydion has a phobia of buttons and is concerned it may affect his work in a period film. However, as their sessions continue, a recurring dream Gwydion has dominates their sessions. In the dream, he is a child on his father’s boat. He hears a disturbance and then a splash before he wakes up, unnerved. When Jessica makes a house call after Gwydion’s mother calls her, concerned he may be suicidal, she learns Gwydion’s au pair drowned at their cliff side home, and she begins to wonder if Gwydion’s dream is reality. What really happened to the au pair?

The House on the Cliff – beginning with its cover – looked like an absolutely perfect read for the dreary January weather we’ve been having. Set in Wales, the tone and the subject matter are eery and dark. However, the longer I read, the more I had to shake my head. I thoroughly enjoy mysteries whose detecting character isn’t necessarily a detective. That said, the main character should also exhibit a sense of investigation that makes his or her foray into detecting plausible. Instead, Jessica is a bit of a mess. She is certainly curious, but she never seems to pair her curiosity with rational, measured thought. Unable to forgive her husband for the affair, she quickly entangles herself with her patient (!), delves into his family history without authorization, manages to alienate and place her daughter in danger, and make an altogether ridiculously foolish move at the end of the book. Though I enjoyed the writing, The House on the Cliff left me wondering if Jessica Mayhew is capable of leading a mystery series.

If you’re so inclined, add this to your Goodreads shelf.

  • Interesting. . .I’m not sure if I would pick this book up. It sounds intriguing but it doesn’t sound revolutionary. Thanks for the honest review.

    • Yeah, certainly not revolutionary. But a really moody cover! And setting. I’d love to read more books set in Wales.

  • iliana

    This does sound like the main character is a bit of hot mess. I’m kind of curious though and would probably give it a try!

    • I don’t regret reading it, certainly. I just notice the more mysteries I read, the more I have to call out certain things.

  • lulu_bella

    Bummer – that cover is fabulous. Wish it wasn’t on a book you found so-so.

    • Isn’t it an awesome cover?

  • S.G. Wright

    Yeah Jessica does sound like a mess. Seems hard to respect her. Good review.

    • Yeah, unfortunately. I might give her another try on a sequel.

  • I, too, am drawn into the cover! Jessica does sound like a hot mess. Sounds like she needs a partner who brings rational thought and stability to her as she goes about investigating.

  • Nishita

    Sounds like an okay-ish reads. Sometimes series books take time to gather steam and develop character. Maybe this will too.