The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Unique and compulsive, psychological horror

TheLastHOuseQuite possibly this is the most unique, unusual and utterly compelling book that I’ve ever read.  At the same time it’s a book that you have to give your brain a little time to adapt to but once you do you won’t be able to pull your eyes away.  It’s horribly fascinating, almost hypnotic in its ability to make you read ‘just one more chapter’ as you desperately seek to uncover the truth.

The story is told by three unlikely characters.  A man who is very detached from everyday life, who lives by himself and is socially awkward.  Ted finds himself the centre of unwanted and unpleasant attention following the disappearance of a young girl from the local lake.  Dee is also a character who struggles to fit in.  Following the disappearance of her younger sister whilst on holiday she has lost everything she holds dear.  Her entire life is consumed by the desperate need to know what happened to her little sister and maybe ideas of revenge.  Olivia is a cat.  Rescued as a kitten she never sees the outside world and spends a lot of time in her ‘safe space’, she also gives readers an alternative view of events as they unfold – even if that view is a little unconventional.

Okay, I’m trying not to give away spoilers and so I’m not going to touch on the plot at all.  As the description says, ‘a serial killer, a stolen child, revenge, death and an ordinary house.  All of these things are true and yet at the same time all of these things are not true.  When is a door not a door?

So, I loved the writing here.  I think it’s safe to say that you might experience a little ‘what the heck’ moment when you first begin on this journey but all I can say is press on.  I would also say that you need to pay close attention to what you’re reading, which I admit is sometimes difficult because some of the content is so mercilessly intriguing that it encourages you to read on at breakneck speed.  Don’t do it.  Take your time and absorb the detail, there are clues here not to mention a certain unreliability in narration about what’s going on together with an overlapping of certain events that gives everything a skewed perspective at times.

This is quite possibly going to be one of the shortest reviews ever considering how much this book affected me but I really don’t want to give away spoilers.  Instead, I’ll discuss my feelings whilst reading this which jumped around like crazy.  I was intrigued,  I was angry, I was desperate for answers, I was shocked, literally ‘mouth opened in a perfect ‘o’ type of shocked that doesn’t often happen and I was horrified.  In fact for me this is a perfect example of sleight of hand.  Ward led me down the dusty path in a masterful display of ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ and maintained her mind control completely until she was ready to give me the final punch to the gut.  I didn’t see any of it coming.  I pictured exactly what the author wanted from the beginning.  My mind was made up, the doors were closed, and then the doors were blown open in shocking fashion.  Masterfully done.  I applaud you.

I don’t know what else to say.  This was a gripping read.  It was utterly fascinating for me and I take my hat off to Ward for managing to hold all this together so masterfully.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward.  Check out the description to find out more:

LastHouseThis is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…

Expected publication : March 2021

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Posted On 29 July 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
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little eveI hardly know how to begin to review Little Eve, especially without giving away elements that could potentially spoil the read for others.  This is a gothic story set upon a remote Scottish island that can only be reached at low tide via causeway.  Ultimately it’s an unravelling of the events that took place at Castle Altnaharra one stormy night that resulted in the apparent ritual sacrifice of four of the inhabitants.

This was a gripping story and the writing was beautifully hypnotic, almost poetic.  I haven’t read Catriona Ward before but on the strength of the writing here would definitely like to read her debut novel.  She has a way with words that is breathtakingly evocative.  Anyway,  I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story kicks off with a mysterious and quite chilling opening.  The discovery of four dead bodies by a local man delivering goods to the Isle.  From there the author takes us back over previous events using alternating chapters narrated by Dinah and Eve to gradually build a story of manipulation and cruelty.

The story is roughly set over a four year period from 1917 to 1921.  Times were harsh for many people during that period and this caused a more introspective ‘charity begins at home’ type of feeling amongst many people that resulted in otherwise unusual or unacceptable behaviours remaining unchallenged.

The inhabitants of the castle are predominantly orphan children who have been brought to the seclusion of the isle by a man they know as ‘uncle’.  Together they all take part in strange rituals involving visions of a large sea serpent.  They all believe Uncle to be the conduit of the God they worship and ultimately their saviour.   Basically this is a story of cult worship.  The children love uncle and vie for his attention and favour, quite jealously, even to the point of tattle-tailing on each other.  Whilst he remains well fed and clothed they are almost starved, small for their age, permanently tired and cold and desperate for affection.  And yet Uncle is the only family they’ve known and they believe in him with a desperate fervour that refuses to waiver.

As time creeps on however the Isle and it’s inhabitants come to the attention of a wily police officer who makes it is business to check on what really goes on in the castle.  Persistent and like a dog with a bone he is determined to find out more about ‘uncle’ and his persistent worrying eventually provokes events to spiral out of control.

This is a little bit of an unsettling read to be honest and yet at the same time it’s a story that propels you forward relentlessly.  I wouldn’t particularly say that I liked any of the characters whilst I was reading.  Eve is a bit unnerving, Uncle is bloody awful and manipulative, and Dinah, well, actually, I suppose I quite liked Dinah and just wished she could break free, especially since she had the barest sliver of a chance at happiness.

This is a story that is narrated by an unreliable character – you just need to figure out who is telling the truth and it’s this need to know what actually happened that drives you onwards.

I can’t really say too much about the rest of the plot because it would definitely involve spoilers.  I would however like to highlight that there are some unsavoury elements to this story – which, whilst they’re not overly dwelled upon, there’s no gratuity here and in fact with some events you’re given a hint of things and left to come up with your own conclusions and yet in spite of that these events and the way the children are treated is undeniably cruel and shocking.

Like I said, this is a somewhat unsettling read.  It’s a book that is creepy and yet at the same time unnervingly addictive.  A perfect read for a stormy night when you can hear the wind buffeting the house and the rain lashing the windows whilst feeling safe and secure within your own little castle.

A murder mystery with a difference, a twist that I simply didn’t envisage and a period setting that is bleak with war.  Definitely an author that I would like to read again – this might not have been a ‘fun’ read, there’s no witty banter and I think you definitely need to be in the right frame of mind, but, the writing is very impressive and it’s undoubtedly the type of read that once you’ve started you’re in it until the end – bitter or not.

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