Shelley and her mother are mice, hiding away from the world in one of its corners. Both of them carry the scars of their battles with predators – Shelley’s at the hands of school bullies who nearly killed her, and her mother emotional scars from fights against her father and her bullying bosses.
So being mice, when a burglar breaks into their home and threatens them, they do what mice do: They hide, they accede, they submit. But Shelley snaps, pushed past the limit. And she discovers that mice have teeth, and what sharp little teeth they are. Shelley kills the burglar in self defence, but her mum realises that the police won’t see it that way…they’ll see it as murder.
They decide to hide the body, to bury the burglar in the rose bushes. The act of defiance becomes a waiting timebomb beneath them, waiting to explode. Every knock on the door makes Shelley think of police, of prison bullies who will make the ones at school look like nursery teachers.
But gradually, the two women come to realise that the teeth they used to kill the burglar are still sharp. They begin to take control of their lives, to come out from the shadows. To fight back against the people they submitted to.
And when a note from a blackmailer arrives, the two women decide to use those teeth again, this time to kill…
A fantastic premise and a wonderful idea.
I loved this book. The two characters come alive and evolve, transformed by what they’ve been through. Every stage of the plot proceeded from it’s tense (all be it slightly unrealistic) first encounter with the burglar and shot off without a pause, pulling me along with it. Will they be caught? What will happen next? What will trip them up? It kept me flipping the pages and I zipped through it.
The descriptions and world building were first class, lending the book a real sense of atmosphere and place. I had no trouble visualing the world they lived in, and I breathed in the smell of the flowers through their windows, felt the terror and the tension as they did.
I did wonder at the end if Shelley was becoming a sociopathic monster, desensitised to the violence she’s lived through. She urges her mother to shoot the blackmailer, screaming at her to do it, do it. And at the end, when she wants to return to school, she almost seems to relish the thought of a confrontation with her former bullies.
I wonder: What becomes of a mouse when it realises that it enjoys how sharp it’s teeth are?