Hold My Hand, by Serena Mackesy



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"Spare, taut and robust as haiku"

Hold My HandBridget Sweeny and her daughter, Yasmin, need to get out of London, fast. They're drowning in debt and living in hell – and Kieran, Yasmin's violent father, won't take no for an answer, even if it's the courts that are saying it. So when Bridget is offered a cash-in-hand job caretaking Rospetroc House, a granite-built Elizabethan mansion on the edge of Cornwall's Bodmin Moor, it seems like the answer to their prayers. They can disappear. Their problems, if not over, can at least go on hold.

But Rospetroc has a reputation in the village and a history of high staff turnover. The house's former owners didn't die happily. Her predecessor has left without even finishing her meal. Strange things start happening, and Yasmin develops an imaginary friend. And Kieran, back in London, is still not taking no for an answer. Slowly, as events in the house escalate, Bridget begins to suspect that they are not alone after all...

Hold My Hand is a supernatural thriller on two timelines. It tells the intertwined stories of Bridget, Yasmin and Lily, an unwanted child from the Portsmouth docks, evacuated to escape the Luftwaffe into the unwelcoming arms of the dysfunctional Blakemore family. Lily’s and Yasmin’s situations are tied together over the decades — but who is Lily: avenging angel or angry demon? SM

What the press said

"Who would you rather have as a playmate: a nine-year-old ghost or a father who broke your arm? Yasmin's mum Bridget is desperate to get them out of London and away from her violently abusive husband Kieran. So she's glad to be offered the housekeeping post at Rospetroc House on Cornwall's Bodmin Moor. But they've barely settled in when strange things begin happening. Figurines turn around. Footsteps clatter in the absence of living feet. The extra bed in Yasmin's room looks as though someone has slept in it. And Yasmin shares conversations with young Lily, who isn't really there. Or is she? Just as scary, Kieran is making serious progress in tracking them down. As the house pranks escalate and Kieran draws closer, Bridget wonders whether she and Yasmin will ever be safe. It's the same thought that has worried their nine-year-old familiar, an unloved evacuee sent to wait out the Great War in the safety of the country, only to find there Hughie, who tormented her, and his besotted mum, who locked her in closets for deeds the lad had committed. Snow isolates the house. Yasmin and Bridget barricade themselves in. Past and present menace looms. And vengeance is left to the sorely tried Lily. Lock the doors, draw the curtains and hunker down. This is one scary read from an author perfectly capable of raising goose bumps even in summer months." Kirkus Reviews

"British author Mackesy (The Temp) deftly juggles two realities—the natural and the supernatural—in her compelling debut mystery. Desperate for income and a place to hide from an abusive ex-husband, Londoner Bridget Sweeny takes a job as the caretaker of a Cornish manor that's now a hotel, Rospetroc. Accompanying Bridget is her young daughter, Yasmin, who soon becomes the confidante of a ghost—Lily, a nine-year-old refugee from Hitler's blitzkrieg who vanished while boarding with Rospetroc's long-dead mistress during WWII. Lily, who does palpable damage to the premises, becomes a second source of terror for Bridget. Mackesy's stream-of-consciousness narrative successfully delineates these characters' inner lives, though at first most function as stock figures—the mother frightened for her child, the brutal husband, the plucky best friend. But Mackesy's prose — spare, taut and robust as haiku — lessens the implausibility of the novel's resolution." Publisher's Weekly

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