In 1977, a group of seven teenagers is part of an experimental therapy for young people with a high IQ but severe psychological troubles. Innes, Lydia, Abby, Alex, Danny, Simon and Carrie were part of what was referred to as “the Unit”. Three nurses: Anna, Ranj and Sarah, under the direction of Dr. Adrian Laurie, were in charge of them. Twenty-six years later, some of them have sworn to keep in touch by mail, every year on November 8th…

Innes has become a lawyer, and she is reluctant to think about this shameful time in her past when she needed heavy psychological help. She has buried this experience deep inside, so when she hears on her answering machine a message from Abby, a visibly scared Abby, she refuses to let the past come to haunt her, and ignores the plea to call Abby back. Some days later, Abby is found dead in a swimming pool, her wrists slashed: she apparently committed suicide. Out of guilt, Innes probes further into the death of the one who used to be her closest friend in the Unit, and finds out that another of the Unit members jut died in what seems an accident or a suicide. And this is not the last of her unpleasant discoveries: Innes begins to be really frightened, and wants to know what happened all those years ago that brings so many present tragedies amongst former members of The Unit…

Of course this is one of many novels where former friends are linked by a dark secret from their past, and sworn to secrecy (A Fatal Inversion, by Barbara Vine, comes to mind…). But I must admit that The Reunion, while not literary as a Vine’s novel, is very suspenseful and kept my attention all along. I would not recommend it to the squeamish, the dark secret hinted at is indeed very dark and disturbing. The narration shifts from present to faraway past, and to near past, focusing on different characters in turn, and including newspaper clippings or hospital logbook extracts (in a manner reminiscent of Minette Walters). All this creates of course a very dynamic and intriguing way of delaying the final revelation. The characters are a little bit stereotyped (I am thinking mainly about the Alex character, which is not quite believable), and not deep enough, but the overall effect is quite convincing. If I had to make comparisons, I would put Sue Walker as a writer somewhere between Nicci French and Val McDermid…

A dark yet riveting novel…

Rating: 3,5/5