Fear blisters through this town like a fever…
When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife-edge. Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it always has.
And before long, it will find Ada too.
This isn’t my first book by Ronnie Turner. A few years ago I read her debut thriller Lies Between Us so I was in no doubt as to how disturbing So Pretty might be. And Dear Reader, I wasn’t wrong. This is one of the darkest and most chilling of reads.
When 33 year old Teddy Colne arrives in the town of Rye, he has a history that he tries to hide. A history by association that would make him a pariah so the antique and curiosity shop of Berry & Vincent would seem a perfect fit. For that too has a history, and not a good one. The shop is avoided by the townspeople, they don’t speak of it, they hurry past it in case it contaminates them and the creepy vibe is compounded by its owner, the silent Mr Vincent, who changes his window displays to shock and offend. Teddy however gets a job there as an assistant. At first he is intrigued but the more he delves into the history of the shop and its ownership, he becomes infatuated by it; and his own story and that of the shop consume him.
Single mum Ada is lonely. With only her young son Albie for company, she doesn’t really fit in and finds herself at worst ostracised and at best ignored by others. Like Teddy, Ada too keeps her past to herself. She wanders around Rye and although she is aware of the general feeling towards the shop, she is not scared but is pulled towards it and whilst Albie looks for something to play with, she looks for friendship.
Ronnie Turner’s writing seems to have matured since her debut of 2018. This unsettling story with its sinister undertone and atmospheric backdrop has short sharp sentences that have impact and the ability to shock. With its underlying themes of identity, obsession and secrets, both Ada and Teddy find themselves caught in a web of toxicity and darkness.
As the story progressed the tension increased. There were times when I was holding my breath and almost too worried to read on for fear of what was to come but also desperate to know. So Pretty is not an easy read, it is complex and dark and oh so haunting.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and the publisher for providing the e-copy to review.
Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in the South West with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. Ronnie is a Waterstones Senior Bookseller and a barista, and her youth belies her exceptional, highly unusual talent.
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