Dead-eyed Sadie is said to appear just before a member of the Thorn family is about to die. This seems indeed to happen as people around Ava Thorn die or are murdered. She becomes a suspect in a murder case and in turn she and her unlikely ally, Dominic Miller, suspect one of their teachers.
The Millers and the Thorns have been enemies for some time. Dominic and Ava find out out that his may go back to the time of Sadie Burnett Miller who was left to die by the Thorn family. Her eyes were gouged out. Despite Dominic’s sister Freya and Ava’s best friend Ford being two of the people who die, Ava and Dominic become close.
Ava’s parents were killed in a car accident and Ava blames Dominic’s father, whose car slammed into theirs on an icy evening as they drove home. Ava’s Uncle Ty and his wife Caroline have to sell the manor, the Thorn family home, before the bank forecloses and Ava is astounded that they sell it to the Millers. Freya and Ava clash particularly; they are both promising art students and compete for the summer school art scholarship. Ava still endures nightmares and more recently has also had hallucinations. She puts this down to the trauma of losing her parents and of being the one who found Freya’s body.
The truth is horrible. Caroline is a fortune-seeker. Uncle Ty resented Ava’s father as her grandfather had left Ty none of his fortune. Much of the proceeds of the sale of the manor has been put into a trust fund for Ava. But Caroline and Ty plot to kill her and frame her for Freya and Ford’s deaths. Caroline has systematically been adding a drug to Ava’s drinks. She and Ty were also instrumental in her parents’ death and the arrival of Mr Miller was just a lucky (unlucky?) coincidence.
Ava and Dominic almost get trapped in the manor which is burnt to the ground.
There are also strong bildungsroman elements in this. Ava grows: she loses her family home and the value she attached to it, she overcomes the enmity between the two families and she finds out that her beloved uncle Ty and her close friend Ford were not quite what they seemed.
This is a fast-paced novel and keeps readers engaged right to the end. Yet there is also plenty of solid character development.
This is a long book – 385 pages of blocked text in a serif font.