Winner of the East Anglian Book Awards Prize for fiction in 2012
Deep in the Cambridgeshire fens, Laura is living alone with her 12-year-old daughter Beth, in the old tollhouse known as Ninepins. She’s in the habit of renting out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students, but this year she’s been persuaded to take in 17-year-old Willow, a care-leaver with a dubious past, on the recommendation of her social worker, Vince. Is Willow dangerous or just vulnerable? It’s possible she was once guilty of arson; her mother’s hippy life is gradually revealed as something more sinister and Beth is in trouble at school and out of it. Laura’s carefully ordered world seems to be getting out of control. With the tension of a thriller, Ninepins explores the idea of family and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughters, in a landscape that is beautiful but – as they all discover – perilous.
‘Thornton is skilled at drawing out the poignancy of ordinary life.’