The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Liked but didn’t love it


I will start this review with the positives.  I certainly think this is an impressive and fairly unique debut, Ana Reyes succeeds in creating a great atmosphere and I enjoyed her style and would be keen to pick up any books she writes in the future.  I also enjoy a story told in a dual perspective and added to that a slightly unreliable narrator and you have my attention.  But, I felt like the pacing was off a little – for me at least anyways.  I reached a stage where I was becoming a bit annoyed, at this point, instead of enjoying the suspense I found myself becoming frustrated.  This could of course be my reading mood at the time but I just felt too much ‘drag’.

Anyway, a little about the plot.

As the story begins we meet Maya, in a loving relationship and living in Boston.  However, look a little closer and it turns out that Maya is keeping secrets.  She has become addicted to painkillers to try to keep at bay the mysterious death of her best friend and is really struggling with withdrawal because her supply has dried up.  On top of this, after witnessing a strange YouTube video in which a young woman dies unexpectedly her memories from that time begin to creep back in unwanted – the reason being, the unknown man in the video, who was talking to the woman just before she keeled over, is Frank, Maya’s love interest when her own best friend died in similar circumstances.  Maya decides to return to her home to finally search for answers.

There is so much here that is done very well.  I got a great feel for Maya and her best friend Aubrey.  They have a close friendship until Maya’s interest in Frank begins to drive a wedge between the two, ultimately leading to jealousy.  The relationship between Maya and Frank is also really well done.  Frank seems to be too good to be true.  He’s elusive and mysterious, giving very little away about himself whilst at the same time manipulating Maya who seems to experience disturbing memory lapses during his presence, which she generally puts down to time flying when she is in his company.  He’s an unusual character, his charm barely masking a general feeling of something more sinister lurking beneath the surface.  You have an overall ‘bad’ feeling about him.

The story jumps back and forth to Maya’s highschool days and the present time (approx 7 years later) when she’s trying to kick addiction, hold down a job, keep her relationship steady and discover the missing elements of that mysterious summer from her past.  On the whole I enjoy a split timeline and that was the case here.  Between the past and present we jump back to the strange encounter with Frank and the author begins to lay the trail of crumbs that something is not quite right.  At the same time we jump forward to the present where Maya struggles with her withdrawal and begins slowly to recall events from the past.

I mentioned the atmosphere.  On the face of it this is a regular story where something just feels off – mainly anything in relation to Frank – but steadily Reyes builds up the tension.  I can’t deny I was fascinated to read the final scene with Aubrey and found the jaunts to the house in the woods equally compelling and would have liked more.

Okay, the only thing that really held me back here was the pacing.  I definitely felt myself flagging by the middle.  Of course I was desperate to know what was really going on so I was turning the pages like a maniac but, put simply, for me the eventual reveal was too drawn out and in fact, considering how quickly the ending then rushed in it felt a little unbalanced.  I must also mention that the unreliable narrator feels as though it is slightly overused (although I usually like it)- or perhaps I’ve simply read to many similar books recently.

Regardless of my slight reservations I do think this was a good read and the conclusion felt unique to me.  I enjoyed the writing and would love to see what this author comes up with next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating is 3 of 5 stars


5 Responses to “The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes”

  1. Tammy

    I was curious about this because it’s Reese’s Book Club pick (not that I read her picks but I follow her on Instagram). Poor pacing can be a red flag for me, depending on how well everything else was done.

    • @lynnsbooks

      TBF it’s a good read and it could simply have been a mood thing for me but it did flag a little and things started to become a little slow. It would have been a lot more tense with a few cuts here and there.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Dual timeline stories can be very engrossing, particularly when the author is building the narrative toward a big reveal, but without a sustained pacing this choice can indeed backfire, as seems to be the case here. Pity, because there is great promise in this story… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this and I really enjoyed the author’s style, I just felt it took too long for things to come together.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Nooooooo, a thriller that flags is the worst! It’s like, you have ONE job, lol. Oh well, had been hoping for a higher rating from you but I am still curious to check this out and maybe will do so later ths month.

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