Sorry to have been so lax in my reviewing lately. I hope to start the fall with more reviews and more followers! Let’s start with two gothic nightmares: Turn of the Key– a modern gothic, and The Silent Companion, a traditional gothic horror tale.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware is what I think of as a modern gothic. It takes place in current day and uses technology to flesh out the spooky factors. A twist on the classic story, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, this modern day Nanny with her own agenda takes a job at Heatherbrae House located in the remote Scottish highlands. The house is an uneasy blend of traditional manor home and starkly modern house with all the technologies a millennial desires. The house is loaded with cameras and security systems along with a child minding systems named Happy. Some of the technology is pretty desirable, such as voice activated showers set to your own preferences, but on the other hand, the fact that your boss may be able to see you in that shower is less than optimal.
The nanny, a young and not so nice woman named Rowan Caine, tells the story as letters to a lawyer from jail where she is being held for murder. We learn she applied for and got a job as a nanny for an uber rich couple in Scotland. She meets the sweet children Maddie, Ellie and baby Petra. The parents are quirky and not in the book much since they are always away at their prestigious jobs. The kids hint about ghosts and secrets and show Rowan the background of the house and the stories surrounding it are not as pleasant as she first thought. I thought the author did a good job with the voices of the children although she does get bogged down in the beginning of the book about the daily routines. I think this part of the book could have been shortened quite a bit. I know the author probably loves being a mother but I don’t need to hear about every little bit of child caring. It was dull as, well, being a babysitter.
The house starts to show itself to Rowan bit by bit. Footsteps where there shouldn’t be. A poison garden. Items appear and disappear. Is the house haunted? By who? And why? What secrets do the children know? Why is Maddie acting oddly? Why did all the other nannies leave? What is going on in Heatherbrae House?
I read this book straight through the night. Except for the boring details of child rearing, I found it an interesting mix of modern and classic gothic horror. Some twists were not needed and actually one was a disappointment to me, since it has been done a million times before and not really needed in this story. The ending was a little overdone, I think, and I knew who the murderer was before Rowan did. It just needs a little more pulling together and editing to be a top notch modern Gothic.
Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC of this novel. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Next, I read a traditional gothic story called The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. This book was something else. It was scary, moved along quickly, and bloody. This is not a book for the squeamish. It is loaded with gore and murder and horrible events. And I loved it.
Young widow Elsie inherits her husband’s family’s gothic estate called “The Bridge”. She moves in to find the house and the staff a complete disaster. Her husband’s mousy cousin also moves in with her. One day they find a wooden painted figure- a silent companion- that resembles Elsie herself. Many surprises greet the two women: more companions, secrets rumbling from the staff, the history of the house, and a diary written from a relative of her husband back in the 1600’s that gives some clues as to the present events.
The book is written in three different voices: one from a doctor treating a recovering Elsie who was burned in a fire and recovering in a hospital. Did she set the fire? Did she murder someone? Why?
Next is the past voice of Elsie herself describing what happening to bring about the events hinted at by the present day voice. Lastly, is the long ago diary of Anne who tells the tale of what happened in that house to set the horror started.
This book stayed with me for quite a while in an unsettling way. Much like dolls can be creepy, I found these silent companions to be odd and weird and definitely would be frightening to find in a dark corner. I found several for sale on line for thousands of dollars. They are collectibles (not for me!). I bet the author saw these wooden pieces and found them as unsettling as I do and wrote a book around them. I highly recommend this book for all lovers of gothic horror. I give it 4 out of 5 stars, one star taken away for a little over done with the gore. I found this book at the library.
Well folks, sorry again for being away for so long. I am back and reading like crazy.