(Note: This recommendation was first published in March of 2015. You can see the original version here.)
It’s getting close to Halloween, which means a lot of us are craving books, movies, and TV shows that fall into the creepier set of genres.
Then again, I can crave that sort of thing any time of the year. Sometimes I just need to read something that shakes me up a little bit.
Luckily, I can turn to books like The House of Small Shadows, by Adam Nevill, to achieve that effect. I’ve read this one twice now–and the reason I’ve only read it twice is because of how easily it gets under my skin. It’s that creepy, and it stuck with me for so long that I couldn’t pick it up again without remembering what happened in it, shuddering slightly, and putting it back down. I needed some time away from it before I could read it again.
Then, after time passed, I read it again this summer. And I’m happy to say I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time I read it.
Catherine thought she’d put the worst parts of her life behind her when she’d found the job of her dreams and a boyfriend who stood by her through some rough times. Things start to go south again when her boyfriend leaves her, and suddenly her job becomes her lifeline. That lifeline starts to seem more like a living hell, however, when it brings back pieces of her dark past–pieces she hadn’t thought were real to begin with.
My description of this book doesn’t nearly do it justice. I can still picture so much of it clearly, largely because of Nevill’s descriptions. They’re precise, without being over-the-top. I think that’s what helps to make the book so unsettling, really.
Well, that and Nevill’s writing style. It has a tendency to creep under your skin and stay there, raising little goosebumps as you make your way through the descriptions in the book. Largely because it’s the type of writing that doesn’t necessarily go for the cheap scares; it prefers to constantly leave you feeling like there’s something off in what Catherine is going through. Something just not right.
That, all on it’s own, makes this the type of novel you should read in as close to one sitting as possible. That way, you can let the “something’s off” feeling build up, so that you get nice and tense during all the right scenes. It’s the absolute best way to enjoy the novel, and others like it.
Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and now things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself — to catalogue the late M H Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting scenes from World War I. When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at the Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s ‘Art’. Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M H Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped had finally been erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge. And some truths seem too terrible to be real …