We have come to expect Helen Grant's novels to get the little hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention. Her writing creates a feeling of unease that carries you from the very first page to the turn of the last. "Jump Cut" does not disappoint! Reminiscent of her excellent earlier novel "Ghost", it places her central characters on a remote Scottish estate, where the story develops around them. Mary Arden is the last surviving cast member of "The Simulacrum", the most famous lost movie in cinema history, about which she has always refused to be interviewed. At the age of 104 she is living out her days holed up in Garthside, an Art Deco mansion which is reputed to be haunted.
In what appears to be a change of heart, Mary agrees to tell her story before it is too late and chooses film enthusiast Theda Garrick as the one to whom she wants to pass on the secrets of "The Simulacrum". Somewhat star-struck and very excited to write a book about Mary’s life, Theda is drawn in, but access to the information she craves comes at a price. Mary demands to know all the salacious details of Theda's tragic past and it is only the hint of some big revelation that stops Theda walking out on the arrangement. Meantime, Theda's feeling of unease grows as she endures lonely hours alone and nights broken by eerie goings on.
Theda begins to feel trapped: and justifiably so. She has no means of leaving, as her car was damaged on the way to Garthside and has yet to be returned to her. Her questions about the house's ghostly past go unanswered and so she decides to take matters into her own hands to find out what is really going on there. In seeking to explore parts of the house that she has been told are out of bounds to her, Theda makes the terrifying discovery that Mary's questions aren't the only thing that she has to fear and that she faces real danger to her freedom and to her life.
"Jump Cut" is beautifully written, and the setting is perfect. The reader is drawn into the story with an urgency to keep turning the page to reveal the secrets of the characters and the location. This reader read almost all of "Jump Cut" in one sitting, only stopping 60 pages or so from the end to have an opportunity to savour the closing scenes which, even at that point, could have taken the story in several different directions. It’'s not a spoiler to say that the ending didn't disappoint. It was unexpected and totally satisfying and that's the best kind of ending because it leaves you wanting more.