Return to Blackwater House is the latest psychological thriller by relatively new novelist Vikki Patis.

Rebecca Bray has spent many years forging a great life which will obliterate the memories of her past.

In the middle of her domestic perfection, someone who once saved her has passed away and left Rebecca as the beneficiary of her home, Blackwater House. The surprised Rebecca relocates her family to the sleepy Cornwall village that holds her secrets hostage. With her, is her beloved but perpetual fiance Daniel, and Daniel’s daughter Ava; a girl who Rebecca would readily give her life for.

The book opens on January 1st, 2020, when most would be beginning resolutions and be excited about the new year. For Rebecca, nothing can be farther from her mind. The 14 year-old step daughter that she adores is missing; gone during a sleepover party at Blackwater House while entrusted to her care.
Did Ava run away? Has she fallen down one of the nearby cliffs and been swallowed up by an unforgiving sea? Was she abducted? No one has the answer.

As is often the case, Daniel is away for work, so the panic-stricken Rebecca must handle the police, the media and the townspeople on her own; a task made even more difficult by the fact that many people know who she is.
This reader has mixed feelings about Return to Blackwater House. It is a slow burn. Slipping back and forth between before and after Ava’s disappearance, its preliminary focus was less about finding Ava, but rather the gradual fleshing out of information about Rebecca’s past. There is plenty of history there.

It takes a while for the novel to jump off the page. I would have much preferred to have connected more with the book by being grabbed by the psychological underpinnings and building excitement with a quick pace earlier on.
Patis does drop hints that appearances are misleading. Few characters are who they seem, so just when you least expect it, the plot explodes.

There is a lot to digest, so putting everything together is pretty intense. The ending is deep, complicated and extreme. Whether it’s too much to be believed is up to the individual reader.

The final section of Return to Blackwater House is filled with shocking twists and connections, showing that even sleepy villages can harbor deep, dark secrets, where people would go to maximum lengths to protect themselves and those they love.

Although fiction, it draws attention to difficult and sensitive topics particularly relevant to women.
If you are patient, Return to Blackwater House will definitely surprise you. It just might be worth the wait.
Return to Blackwater House

Vikki Patis
Hodder & Stoughton 2022
280 pages

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