Her parents were killed in a freak accident on her wedding night, her husband was murdered only five years later and now her house has been burgled twice in just five months.
So what are the chances of such terrible things happening to the same person? Surely it can’t be down to pure bad luck? And how far should she go to protect her 10-year-old son from the cruel hand of fate?
Louise Millar’s second novel – a thrilling, chilling follow-up to last year’s highly acclaimed debut Playdate – is a compulsively readable, white-knuckle ride story featuring an intriguingly off-kilter young woman caught up in a spiral of obsession, suspicion and revenge.
Superbly paced, full of fascinating plot twists and imbued with a creeping sense of dark unease, Accidents Happen confirms Millar as a fresh and fiendishly clever new talent in the burgeoning women’s thriller market.
Kate Parker’s life – dogged by deaths and tragedies too terrible to contemplate – has understandably fallen apart. After the loss of her parents and the murder of her beloved husband Hugo by car thieves, she moved to Oxford to be nearer her in-laws and to give her young son Jack a new start.
But the feeling that fate is somehow targeting her has never gone away and now her overwhelming fears to protect herself and Jack from harm are getting drastically out of control, and casting a shadow over the lives of all the family.
From doing sums in her head to calculate the odds of her actions having bad, or even fatal, consequences, Kate has moved into more dangerously paranoid territory since her home was twice raided.
Her in-laws and Hugo’s sister Saskia find her behaviour increasingly bizarre and are threatening to have Jack taken away from her care.
So her chance meeting with visiting Edinburgh maths professor Jago Martin is heaven sent. The author of a book entitled Beat The Odds and Change Your Life, he helps Kate to see that it is possible to overcome her fears.
At long last, she glimpses what it might be like to live a normal life again and dares to think about a brighter future for her and Jack. But just when she starts to feel safe and happy again, Kate discovers her mysterious neighbour is taking more than a passing interest in her.
And this time, Kate’s fears might not simply be a figment of her over-active imagination...
Accidents Happen, a brilliant tale of an ordinary life skewed off course by a series of extraordinary events, scores top marks for suspense and atmosphere.
Millar’s taut, intelligent writing takes us to the complex core of a mind in the grip of ‘fear freefall’ as Kate Parker’s mental highs and lows are brought to earth in a terrifying and memorable climax.
Unsettling and potently addictive, Accidents Happen looks set to be one of 2013’s best suspense thrillers.
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)