Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 20/07/2021
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Horror | Psychological Thriller | Mystery
CW: graphic depictions of death, domestic violence, murder, mass shooting, mentions of sexual assault
A masterful, heart-palpitating novel of small-town horror and psychological dread from a Bram Stoker nominee.GoodReads
Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence–and her ghost–Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.
Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.
This review is going to be spoiler-free as always but because of the nature of the novel this will be even more vague than usual as the less you know about this novel going into it, the better.
I loved the way that this entire novel was written in the second person; our protagonist, Aaron, is telling the story to his now deceased wife Allison. It just made the entire novel feel much more personal and engaging, even the more gruesome elements of the novel or the ‘action’ has an almost lyrical touch to it which I love. It’s a style that I often see in translated fiction, particularly Japanese fiction, so when we learn that Aaron is a translator of Japanese fiction it just made this novel feel even more authentic which is a great quality for a horror / thriller novel.
Everything about the plot just flowed seamlessly, the pacing of the plot was also perfect for me. Each part was carefully considered and didn’t drag on for the sake of suspense or mystery’s sake. Additionally, the twists that we revealed as we read through the novel all make sense or connect to something, even something small, that we have read previously. Characters, setting, story, each of them have a unique and distinct purpose and are not used purely for the ‘shock value’. The repetition and callbacks to certain lines and motifs throughout the novel was also something I really enjoyed and further goes to illustrate how much careful thought has gone into crafting this narrative. It’s also these recurring images or phrases that give the novel a sense of unease and gives the novel further depth as not just a psychological thriller but a novel that also borders on gothic horror.
I read this novel in a day as I couldn’t put it down, like Aaron I just had to know the truth behind what Allison was doing in the months before she died. The unsettling and oppressive atmosphere which seeps through the pages made it impossible to look away from, it almost felt as though you were trying to watch Aaron’s back for him because it all felt very real, as if the events were unfolding in front of you.
Overall, this is easily one of the most gripping and satisfying novels that I have read this year and one that you do not want to miss out on! I’m very excited to see that a TV series is being made based on this novel as it has a very cinematic feel which will translate wonderfully to the screen. I only hope that it can do the story justice as Malfi has expertly told this story on the page.