A Year in the Life of Leah Brand is a psychological thriller from the pen of author, Lucinda E. Clarke. Leah Brand is a middle-aged woman who has suffered many of life’s vicissitudes along her journey. When her husband and two children are tragically killed in a car accident that also left her missing a leg, it seemed Leah’s life was over. To top it off, her mother was turning senile and had never shown any real love towards Leah. Compounding her problems, Leah’s siblings both live overseas and this made her a prime target of her mother’s scorn, derision and belittling. When Leah met and married the successful and wealthy lawyer, Mason, it seemed things had finally turned for her. Mason’s teenage daughter made it very clear to Leah that she wasn’t subject to her authority and that Leah was never going to take the place of her Mum. Despite this, Leah had rebuilt her life with Mason and was moderately content with her place in the world and her close friendship with her neighbor Audrey. Things started to go haywire though, one New Year’s Eve. The death of Mason’s beloved dog seemed to change everything and soon Leah was (imagining?) strange goings on in the house – furniture mysteriously moving, voices, noises, pots and pans being rearranged and a host of other strange happenings. Was Leah doing all this herself and just not realizing it; was she slowly going mad? Or was there some evil afoot that was determined to drive Leah to the depths of insanity?
A Year in the Life of Leah Brand is a tightly written and tense psychological thriller that draws the reader in from the very first chapter and carries you along, at breakneck speed to the unexpected and surprising conclusion. I’ve read a few of Lucinda E. Clarke’s books and one thing I’ve marveled at is her ability to chop and change genres at will – the sign of an excellent author and Clarke definitely is that. I have little doubt that the beautifully drawn and slightly neurotic character of Leah will resonate with many readers. I found myself continually second-guessing the author’s directions with the story and that is always the sign of a superb author, one who can drag the reader into “red-herring” situations and then throw them off balance with a subtle change in tack. The writing is no-nonsense and to the point, from the perspective of the main character. As a reader we are able to understand, empathise, and ride along with Leah’s swirling emotions as she is totally sure she is not crazy – but what other explanation could there be for all the weird goings-on? I liked the fact that Clarke left the door marginally ajar for a possible sequel to the tale. There is another whole path she could take this story down, if she so desired and I for one, totally hope she does. An exciting, gripping psychological thriller that twists and turns and keeps you riveted to the story, I can highly recommend this read.