ll of the children are free thinking independent-minded teenagers. The story is told from the point of view of Jack, one of the sons, the narrator who is entering adolescence with all of its curiosity and appetites that he must contend with (along with the sure confusion of what the children have done). Julie, the eldest, is almost a grown woman. Sue is rather bookish and observes all that goes on around her. And Tom is the youngest and the baby of the lot.
The children seem to manage in this perverse setting rather well until Julie brings home a boyfriend who threatens their secret by asking too many questions (like what is buried beneath the cement pile, etc), surely threatening the status quo (however morbid) that the children have come to accept as “normal” and as “home”. We understand through McEwan that home is not to be defined by anyone else but it is, instead, what you know and have known that makes you feel safe, even if it is rather dangerous and macabre.
Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, the stories here show us how murder can arise out of boredom, perversity from adolescent curiosity, and how sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness.
While McEwan does not fit the “horror” genre, make no mistake the work here is as horrifying--and frankly terrifying--as anything you’ll find written by Clive Barker or Stephen King. McEwan’s work is finely crafted with a lyricism and an intensity that compels us to confront our secret kinship with what repels us.