I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review.
The House by Simon Lelic
Opening sentence: “When my hand slips from the knife, my first thought is that using it wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be.”
What I really liked about this book was how it straddled both the supernatural and psychological thriller genres, so there are often times you’re left wondering if events have a double meaning. Yes, the house of the title is pivotal to the plot, BUT not in the way you first assume. It’s a clever element that meant my attention was fully captured from page one.
Jack Walsh and Sydney Baker are a young couple eager to get themselves on the brutal London housing ladder, so imagine their delight when they manage to secure a property, despite all the odds (high asking price, number of other potential buyers) being stacked against them. The house they purchase has a quirky charm, but also a history…
Very different people, Jack and Sydney’s relationship is built on an opposites attract basis and the chapter structure reinforces this idea – they are divided into Jack and Sydney’s version of events. Initially with a conversational feel, they are both writing down what’s happening to them (as evidence and so people will believe it), and then reading and responding to each other’s POV. This way, for the first half of the book anyway, the characters are learning certain facts about each other at the same time as us, the reader, and it makes for an interesting narrative structure.
With several plot lines seamlessly woven together, Jack’s centres around issues he is having at work and his growing mistrust of the house – both being there and how they came to own it in the first place. One night, when he goes up to the attic to hunt down a suspicious smell, he finds something that both mystifies and strikes fear into him. Meanwhile, Sydney develops a friendship with her younger neighbour, Elsie. She is drawn to her as they both come from abusive homes, so share similar life experiences. Sydney quickly feels the need to look out for Elsie, while performing the tricky balancing act of running from and atoning the mistakes of her own past.
I found that I didn’t second guess this book, the plot wove it’s various threads effortlessly and was always one-step ahead – just as it should be in a great thriller. Plus, there is a wonderful level of tension established at the beginning that never lets up. I was genuinely hooked until the last page; this is a great read for the upcoming cold, dark evenings – pop the kettle on and get stuck in.