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.

36 thoughts on “Louise Millar: Accidents Happen (2013)

  1. I can’t say how I’ve heard of Louise Millar either. The unpeeling of the plot reminds me a bit of Renee Knight’s Disclaimer which frustrated me–but it sounds as though this was not frustrating in the least. Perhaps the difference is that I felt as though Disclaimer included elements that led you to think specific things and then dismantled those aspects of the plot as the book continued.

  2. Ah good – I picked up another of Louise Millar’s books but looked at it some time later and wondered why. I’m encouraged that though this wasn’t perfect you’d be happy to pick up another of her books.

  3. I read this last year after hearing her talk at a bookshop event and enjoyed it a lot. I’d happily read more of her books too.

    • I’m glad to hear you liked it too. I was afraid towards the middle that it would be one of those predictable books but it wasn’t.
      I’m interested in reading her first now.

  4. I read The Hidden Girl, written by her, and the first half had me gripped – she set things up really well – however, after settling down for an enjoyable read, it all got a bit over the top, lengthy, and unbelievable towards the end. Lots of horrible people in my one too! But she’s a good writer; I’ll perhaps look for her next novel. She’s written three I’m aware of, but I can’t remember the name of the third! Great review Caroline.

    • Thanks, crimeworm. Interesting what you say about The Hidden Girl. This one had unbelievable elements as well and I’ve read one review in which the reviewer was less than happy about the end. I liked it a lot but can’t say why or I’d give away too much. I’d like to read her first – The Playdate.
      I agree, she writes well. It flows nicely.

      • The Playdate – that’s the other one! I suspect I have it, although don’t even know if it’s on Kindle or in paperback. Yes, she has no problems with her writing, it’s more the plausibility of her plots – they just need a wee tweak to make them more feasible. Long stretches of The Hidden Girl had me glued to my Kindle screen. Or perhaps she needs a different editor. I was disappointed to have enjoyed so much, then feel let down!

  5. A friend of mine read this last year and enjoyed it very much. It’s probably not for me as I tend to find this kind of story a bit too creepy, but it sounds very effective.

  6. I was given a Louise Millar for Christmas – naturally the title escapes me now, but it was about moving into a creepy house. I’m really delighted you enjoyed this one – gives me hope I will enjoy mind!

  7. Great commentary Caroline . You managed to convey a bit about this book while still keeping its secrets.

    Your description of main character and what might have happened to her sounds intriguing.

    • Thanks, Brian It was so hard to write about this without spoiling it. I really liked the main character and although her reactions are extreme, I could realte.

  8. Sounds like an author to look for! I agree that it is nice to read a mystery that doesn’t have the same plot as whatever the most recent bestseller was. I sometimes think publishers are lazy–as much as I sometimes like a ‘readalike’–when one sort of story is popular it seems like everything thereafter for the next season is promoted as being the new “fill in the blank….Gone Girl or Woman on the Train….. or…. It’s weird how something like statistics sounds a little boring yet when you read a book by an author who can tell a good story, it doesn’t matter and you find the subject far more interesting than you expected.

    • I was so sure you knew her. If not – she’s definitely right up your street. The statistics element worked very well. There were no maths involved. 🙂
      I think she managed to stay clear of some clichés or played with them. And you’ll love the setting.

  9. Nice review, Caroline! I love books set in Oxford, and I am so glad that this is set there too. And I am so happy to know that that you liked the book and the mystery is interesting. I will add it to my wishlist. I am also glad that everything makes sense in the end – it looks like the author wrote a tight plot and tied up all the loose ends. I have never heard of Louise Millar and so she is a new discovery for me. Thanks for writing about this book.

    • Thanks you, Vishy. I’m glad I could introduce you to her. I had a small doubt in the middle because I didn’t trust the author, but it did make sense and was surprising.
      I love the setting. I hope I can visit Oxford some day.
      I’d be so interested to hear what you think of her.

  10. I did like The Playdate – found it very relatable in and wasn’t too over the top. I’ve been meaning to read more by her. The Hidden Girl I didn’t enjoy as much, but I think I might like this one.

    • Thanks for letting me know. I was wodering which one to pick next. From the different comments I saw, it sounded like The Playdate was really good. I’ll read that next then.

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