Louise Millar: Accidents Happen (2013)

Accidents Happen

I’m not sure where I’ve first heard of Louise Millar, but the review I read was very positive, so when I saw Accidents Happen at the local book shop, I picked it up.

It’s a book that’s easily spoilt. For once, the blurb doesn’t give away anything. All it says is that Kate had some serious bad luck in her life, which has made her obsessive and paranoid. We learn early that her parents have died tragically and later her husband too. It takes a while until we know how they died, and since I enjoyed discovering it for myself, I’m not going to reveal anything more.

When the book opens, Kate and her young son, Jack, live in Oxford. They have moved from London and live in a shabby neighbourhood, although Kate is very rich. Her parents-in-law aren’t happy about this choice. But they are equally unhappy about Kate’s behaviour which is extreme. She’s obsessed with statistics and hopes that if she controls her son’s and her every move, she’ll be able to avert more bad luck. The relationship with her in-laws and her sister-in-law is more than a little strained. On top of that there were break-ins in the house, Jack pretends he hears noises in the cupboard, and Kate can’t shake off the impression that someone enters while they are out. Unfortunately the in-laws think Kate’s making it all up and that she’s a bad influence on her child. They are planning on taking Jack away and so she’s forced into action. Either she sees a therapist or she changes radically. That’s when she meets visiting Oxford professor Jago, a statistician who proposes a very unorthodox way to cure Kate. I can’t say more.

This is one of those novels that might lose readers halfway in because a lot of what happens during this so-called therapy is more than a little bewildering. I’m not sure why I kept on reading anyway, but I’m glad I did because at the end – everything makes perfect sense. I think I don’t spoil too much when I say it has a major twist but a twist that works because Kate doesn’t know what’s going on either. You have to trust the author in this case, and just wait and see.

Apart from this bewildering element, the book has a lot to offer. I liked that it’s set in Oxford and the way she described the city was really appealing. The topic of statistics and the theme of whether someone is cursed or whether you can prevent accidents, was unusual. The pacing is great. It’s suspenseful but never too fast-paced. Most of the characters are extremely unlikable. Luckily Kate isn’t and we care for her.

I’d love to say more about the transformation she undergoes but – again – it would spoil the book.

While this isn’t one of my all-time favourite crime novels, I liked it a lot. It’s solid and highly entertaining, with some really nasty, even creepy characters. I’ll certainly pick up another of her novels. I was also glad that I couldn’t come up with a comparison. It didn’t feel like I’ve read  a book like this or similar authors before.