Synopsis from Goodreads
On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace. For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched. The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all-too-real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?
Right off the bat I observed that this author crafts exquisite sentences. Beautifully descriptive without being overbearing or verbose. Phrasing and word choices are brilliant. The author turns words into works of art! I actually stopped many times throughout the book to re-read sentences because they were so strikingly perfect to me. Very impressive.
Using this amazing talent to craft words, the author also did a fantastic job of setting up a creepy, uneasy feeling throughout the story. Every time Zoe went to the house alone I kind of wanted to stop reading! Whether the events Zoe experienced were real or not real, the sense of foreboding and fright was tangible. From tiny events that invoked minor jumps to major occurrences that invoked sheer terror, the author delivered a truly atmospheric and unsettling story. And the tension increases at a perfect pace in my opinion – and you are never truly sure of what is happening until the climax at the end. Sadly, I predicted the twist at the end (which obviously lessened the impact for me), but I still enjoyed the story. This is one of the creepiest books I have read in a long time.
I did have a little irritation with the main character Zoe. She seemed to be a tad unrealistically brave in constantly returning to the house alone, considering what was going on. While I understand that ultimately it was important to her backstory, Zoe was too easily offended when people offered to help her. She reacted as if everyone assumed she was “just a woman” and couldn’t do anything for herself, rather than realizing people were just being kind and offering a newcomer assistance in what was a crazy and scary situation. So she kept putting herself (unnecessarily) in potentially dangerous situations just to prove she was capable. The impetus for this behavior was ultimately a fundamental part of Zoe’s psyche and impacted how she reacted and experienced everything around her. But thankfully the instances of her negative reaction to offers of help wasn’t an enormous part of the story, but it was annoying to me nonetheless.
I also wasn’t quite expecting the nature of the nocturnal visits. They weren’t terribly graphic, but it is not the type of detail I tend to read. As someone who loves a good ghost story and psychological thriller, but not erotica, I think it is prudent to warn readers that this type of storyline exists in this book.
This is the first book I have read from this author (who also writes under the name of S. J. Parris). I will read more of her work. I love gothic horror/romance novels and this one was really good.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Pegasus Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
My rating – 4 out of 5
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