3 out of 5: Madeleine “Maddy” Shaye, an accomplished concert pianist and television personality, lives a content life with her adopted daughter and her longtime boyfriend, Nick Ashcroft. As you might expect, Maddy’s perfect life begins to slowly unravel bit by bit, first her career and then her family. Abeel maintains a high level of suspense as the story progresses, skipping from Maddy’s past to the present and back again.
Abeel’s prose is similarly nimble, though its studied flippancy takes some getting used to. This passage describing Maddy’s culinary failure and Nick’s save is typical of Abeel’s style throughout:
He cooked—partly by necessity. She'd curdled the beef Stroganoff for a dinner party, but Nick just laughed it off; their unspoken compact was never blame the other; the word "Strogo" became their code for gastric alert. Sure, he was bossy as hell in the kitchen, and as for the cleanup ... But ta-da! he'd set out steaming bowls of zuppa di pesce, exuding essence of sea.Abeel’s upbeat, casual prose seems inconsistent with Conscience Point’s overriding darkness. It’s this darkness—a kind of pervasive Gothic atmosphere—that is this novel’s most compelling feature. Other redeeming qualities include Abeel’s graceful treatment of Maddy’s musical career and the supporting character of Violet, Nick’s sister. Although Violet rarely appears in the novel, her force is apparent throughout. Overall, Conscience Point is a suspenseful family drama written in somewhat distracting prose.