Gilly Macmillan takes the usual ideas related to British mystery and turns them on their unlucky heads in The Nanny.

Alternating between several main points of view while going back and forth between the events of the late 1970s and the current time, we are introduced to Jo, a grieving widow, who has just moved with her young daughter, Ruby, from their California home to Jo’s English home, Lake Hall.

Ruby is immediately smitten with her Granny, Virginia, and wants to learn all things British. Jo is worried about their closeness. She has brought Ruby here only due to the financial hardship she finds herself thrust into, not through any sense of love for her mother.

While the child Jo was fond of her father, she remembers her mother as not being able to stand the sight of her,an absent parent while her parents partied and turned her care over to her nanny, Hannah, This sets up an uncomfortable dynamic as both try to placate Ruby, who is adjusting to a new home and a new school while missing her dead father.

It doesn’t help that Jo never understood why Hannah suddenly disappeared one day when she was seven. Sent to boarding school after that, Jo became distant from the parents she already had a fraught relationship with; her current situation makes her depression deepen and she and Virginia are frequently at odds.

Then human remains are found on the small island in the middle of the lake when Jo takes Ruby kayaking. This leads to suspicions from everyone in their small town, and only increases Jo’s determination to find a job and take Ruby away from the claustrophobic atmosphere and the clutches of her mother.

But Jo’s family have grown adept at keeping secrets, and some of them revolve around the circumstances under which Hannah left. Until——suddenly——she’s back. Jo sees Hannah’s return as a rescue, bringing her the support she craves. But it sets up a struggle between Virginia and Hannah that soon has Jo questioning everything she’s believed about her mother.

It doesn’t help that the detective looking into the identity of the human remains believes the family at Lake Hall belong to a faded aristocracy he loathes.

There will be memories that resurface as the secrets become revealed, but the twists and turns keep coming in this wholly satisfying psychological thriller with an unforgettable ending.