A multi-layered, rousing novel of suspense that fuses psychological terror and violence with childhood innocence, The Absence of Nectar is a novel that is unified by different literary genres that forms a reading experience that is not simply unique, but also intellectually edifying, entertaining and occasionally corrosively comical. The protagonists - Alice and Boone Fendar - could be an updated Texan verson of Jem and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. But their battle is not with the evils of racism and those who are benighted by unbridled hate; it is against an evil of equil horror: Simon Jester, a psychopathic stepfather whose rancorous and injurious deeds knows no bounds. It is the summer, a time of carefree, languorous innocence, a time for swimming, softball, drinking homemade lemonade to gobs of other summer fun - or so one would believe. As life is good for some, it is less so for others, the others being Alice and Boone. The crack-up of their family darts forth when their father abandons them, leaving Meg (the mother) to fend for herself as a beekeeper. But for someone who has consistently been dependent on the economic progression of the husband - the primary bread earner (in this case) - the task of becoming 'career-oriented' or evolving into a 'learned' woman of business, is something less than easy. An emotional struggle ensues within Meg - a battle against depression and all the mental infirmities that commonly strike women who are slowly stripped away of not only their identity and confidence, but most importantly, their perceptions of themselves, their self-worth. She takes drastic suicidal actions to prevent the obvious from occurring. The act fails, but it invokes enough of a scare to keep the family thinly glued together. But it does not last. Hence, things become unhinged, a role inversion happens: Meg becomes vulnerable and dependant while the kids become the caretakers. In order to regain a degree of family normalcy, the kids take their mother to Hollow Cove on Lake Shine, and while there, Meg nearly drowns but is later saved by a stranger who eventually becomes husband #2. As Meg is blind sighted by all that she has endured, she fails to see what is most obvious to her children: Alice, keen in insight, rebellious in manner and Boone, lovingly innocent and somewhat odd, for he has a deep attraction to Persely Snow, a famous teenage murderess with a liking for poisons. The obvious is that Simon Jester has a very questionable past, the death of his wife and 'son.' The latter is a jaw dropping surprise. The Absence of Nectar is quirky, because it encompasses crime, coming-of-age cuteness and hard, trim prose. To relegate it as traditional fiction would be innaccurate, for it is mystery, literature, young adult and contemporary - all nicely knitted together - a coming-of-age novel that is not overly imbued with oozing saccharine hyperbole. Fans of Hepinstall's earlier novel, The House of Gentle Men, will not be disappointed with The Absence of Nectar.