British writer Audrey Erskine Lindop (1920–1986) wrote the first of her eight suspense novels in 1953, with three of them later made into movies, including I Start Counting (featuring a teenage Jenny Agutter in her first big-screen starring role). The novel itself went on to win the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière - International Category in 1967.
I Start Counting centers on 14-year-old orphan Wynne Kinch, growing up in during the prosperous but tumultous 1960s Britain. Her working-class family—which includes her aunt by marriage who she calls Mum, her granddad, and her cousin—had been evicted from their Collins Wood home to make for a new development. But even after moving to a brand-spanking new high-rise council flat, Wynne sneaks back to the old beloved homestead, and it is there that a mystery begins to unfold.
Wynne has an intense crush on her 32-year-old stepbrother, George, and finds he's been in the old Collins Wood place recently and had lied about what he was doing. When she further spies on him, she sees scratches on his back and finds a bloody sweater he threw in the trash, making her suspect George is the serial strangler of several local teenage girls. Her loyalty to him and her attempts to protect him eventually draw the attention of the police, throw the members of her blended family into turmoil, and ultimately lead to tragedy.
The title I Start Counting refers to Wynne's philosophy of counting to "drown out the thought that was scaring you," yet the novel itself isn't a dark thriller, but rather a coming-of-age tale with warmth, humor, and an entertaining cast of characters that incluces Wynne's boy-crazy pal Corinne, Wynne's doom-laden sister Aunt Rene Tyndall, George's high-strung half-brother Len, Wynne's cousin Helene, and her north-country "Mum." But the story would fall apart if it weren't grounded in the POV of the intelligent, funny, passionate Wynne, who Lindop has painted with a wholly sympathetic brush.