In A Cottage In A Wood

When it comes to its first two chapters, Cass Green’s “In a Cottage in a Wood” (HarperCollins, 312 pages) takes the cake for grabbing the reader’s attention.

The opening scene begins with party girl Neve Carey waking in a hotel after a one night stand. Battling a hangover, Neve heads to her sister’s house where the perpetually impoverished Neve lives with her sister’s family.

In the cold, early morning hours of late December, Neve comes across a striking young woman on Waterloo Bridge wearing a beautiful dress but no coat.

Neve engages the woman in a very brief conversation and then to her horror, she sees the woman jump to her death off of Waterloo Bridge.

Any attempt to put the terrible scene behind her is quickly shattered when Neve is told that the woman, Isabelle Shawcross, had drafted what is called a “donatio mortis causa” or deathbed gift, gifting her cottage in rural Cornwall to the last person she saw on the bridge before committing suicide.

With her bank account practically empty and having lost her job, Neve thinks that her luck may have finally turned around. She dreams of living in a quaint cottage in the countryside, but the isolated Petty Whin Cottage is anything but charming. She finds garbage strewn about the place and what is more ominous, there are bars on the windows.

In time, Neve discovers that someone had been stalking and terrorizing the cottage’s previous owner, the tragic Isabelle Shawcross, and the fiend is bent on doing the same to her.

Neve is convinced the terror is linked to Isabelle’s murky past and slowly she uncovers her sad story and the sinister history of Petty Whin Cottage.

Cass Green, the pseudonym of Caroline Green, an award-winning author of fiction for young people, writes an updated Gothic novel of sorts, blending the scene of a seemingly tranquil rural abode which hides a history of a most horrific crime, and adds to this potent background a very modern motive (greed) — to produce a well-written story of suspense.