Ruth is an elderly widow who is slowly but certainly losing grip on her body and on reality. At night she dreams about a tiger visiting her house, she becomes convinced the tiger was actually there. When Frida enters her house and announces that she has been sent by the government to take care of Ruth, she is relieved at first. Ruth does need help and Frida can make life easier for her. To the reader however it is clear from the start that something fishy is going on. The fact that Frida is just not nice to the old lady intensifies this feeling. From the start you worry that something is going to go dreadfully wrong. Ruth cannot prevent Frida from moving into her house, simply because she no longer recalls what she said to Frida about staying in her house for a weekend. An old friend comes to visit and Frida’s help is required. Throughout the weeks Frida takes over Ruth’s house and her life. Her behaviour wavers between downright aggressive and caring, she even goes along with Ruth’s believe in the tiger. When she locks Ruth into the house when she goes out, Ruth gets angry and breaks into Frida’s room. She finds personal papers and belongings there. To the reader it is obvious: she is up to no good. When Ruth’s son decides to come and check on his mother Frida is forced to speed things along, only to discover that the deceiver is on the deceiving end herself. At that moment things escalate terribly.
McFarlane not only manages to increase the tension expertly, she also paints a bleak picture of an older person starting to suffer from dementia who can no longer trust memories and thoughts. It makes one wonder who one’s surroundings would believe in similar circumstances: poor forgetful you or the sane help? While Ruth’s mind is declining, the relationship between the two women is growing more and more complex. McFarlane has managed to write an utterly convincing novel in which fraud and mental decline make for a powerful combination.