Sadie Jones’ latest novel sees family secrets unravel against the brooding uneasiness of a capital in flux
If you covet a gripping thriller as much as the next noir-loving woman, put Sadie Jones’ The Snakes on your hit list.
Jones is the author of four best-selling novels, including The Outcast, a brilliant and harrowing tale of young man shunned by a ridged village community in the 1950s.
Now the author is back in the limelight, with her first stab at fiction set in modern day.
The Snakes tells the story of a young married couple, Bea and Dan, who escape their small flat in London for a few months to visit Bea’s brother at the hotel he runs in Burgundy, France.
They find him all alone at the deserted establishment, with nothing but a nest of snakes in the attic.
When Bea’s wealthy and charming parents arrive on-scene, dark secrets begins to surface, and a sudden tragedy reveals the family’s rotten core.
Unlike Girl on a Train and other contemporary thrillers, The Snakes draws its sense of menace not just from characters but also the political landscape of Brexit Britain.
“In many ways, the book is a morality tale and a story about what felt – when I was writing it in 2016 – and still feels like the rise of evil,” Jones tells the Guardian.
“I decided it had to be set today because of this feeling I have of being on a precipice, this feeling that mortal danger is all around us.”
Referring to the book’s partial setting in France, she adds: “I wanted the book to feel post-European, like a goodbye to all that we’re leaving behind. I wanted to put it somewhere that feels like it’s dying.”
The story-line of The Snakes also offers a portrait of modern London as a place eroded by millionaire property tycoons and corporate greed.
A Londoner herself, Jones says she feels nostalgic for the days when the capital was “bohemian and cheap enough” for ordinary people to live there: “I do grieve for that. Now it all looks like Mary Poppins: gorgeous buildings everywhere but there are no lights on, and it’s sad.”
Jones stormed onto the literary scene in 2008 with her debut novel The Outcast, later adapted into a BBC drama. A gut-wrenching and beautifully observed story, it showcased the author’s skill for taut, suspense-ridden prose.
If its success is anything to go by, we’d say The Snakes is not one to miss.