We’ve all done some pretty rubbish things for our jobs. Except for writing on this site, which is great, of course. But would you spend a night in an obviously haunted house surrounded by stuffed rats and a lady who makes the Crypt-Keeper seem friendly?
Auctioneer Catherine Howard is tasked with valuing the Red House and its collection of stuffed animals and toys in her home town and finds that nothing is what it seems. Her own troubled past and present are also causing strain on her work, leaving her susceptible to the influence and power that the house and its occupants have over her.
Make no mistake, ‘House Of Small Shadows’ is a slow burn. There are times when one is almost screaming at the book to get on with it and have that big reveal but when it does get going, boy, it’s a doozey. Over the first 250 pages or so, Adam Nevill cranks up the tension for Catherine and the reader, until you can’t actually turn the page fast enough to read the next sentence.
With five books now under his belt, Nevill is proving to be a strong creative force who is an expert is setting up a horror scene. Through the eyes of Catherine, we see disturbing rooms filled with stuffed animals forever at war and sleep-depriving scenes in the house that makes you admire her dedication to duty and question her intelligence for staying there as long as she does.
This skill in setting up a scene is a bit of a double-edged sword as it almost takes too long to get to the meat of the story. We spend a lot of time being horrified at the house and sympathetic towards Catherine and her terrible life that it may turn some impatient readers off. The only recommendation I have to those people is please stick with it and give yourself an old-fashioned scare.
Another solid entry from Nevill who is becoming one of Britain’s top horror writers and one that classic genre fans will enjoy. It won’t be long before Hollywood comes knocking to adapt his books.
(pub: TOR-UK/PanMacmillan. 370 page hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-77269-4
pub: TOR-UK/PanMacmillan. 375 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-330-54424-5)